Very Reverend Father Michael Pomazansky
Translated by Natalia Semyanko, Fr. Serguey Kissilev
Our God…hath done whatsoever he hath pleased (Ps. 114:3).
The principle of purpose or the law of causality. Two elements in the world. The realm of death. Laws of reason and goals. The man. Society. The universe. "And God said."
The heavens are established by the Lord’s Word.
Faith as a dogma.
From Knowledge to Knowledge of God.
Nature. The composition of man and the purpose of his being. God’s Image in man.
The Church on Providential Wisdom.
1. What do the words "The Church teaches" mean? 2. The wise and all-encompassing providence of God. 3. Wisdom is not a personal being. 4. Sophia — "the soul of the world?" "Feminine source in God?" 5. The World’s Life in the Holy Spirit.
Life in faith.
"We have seen the true Light."
Two types of enlightenment.
Light and darkness.
Christ’s Church, according to the teachings of the ven. Simeon, the New Theologian.
Our God…hath done
whatsoever he hath pleased (Ps. 114:3).
The principle of purpose or the law of causality.
Why? — How come? — These two questions are inherent to each of us from our childhood, from the moment when thought awakened in us, and we began to use language. "To what purpose?" and "For what reason?"
The question "Why?" suggests the idea of a result after a given event or occurrence. The religious point of view is associated with this question.
In the question "How come?" one expresses the idea of something preceding and providing cause for a given event or object. The teaching of positivism as a view on the world is closely associated with this question.
All our daily thoughts can also be defined as "eternal questions." "Reasons" or "purposes" are origin of all existence.
Modern thought, declaring itself scientific, striving to depart from the religious idea and relying on the principle of materialism, ignores the questions of "purpose." It denies their leading role in the main questions of the world’s existence. In everyday life all purposes are reduced to a minimum. One tends to be convinced that all our acts, both social and private, which appear to be done of free will, are in fact so much determined by past events that our personal will is only a subject to "the law of causality." In this view, a purposefulness of our acts is only imaginary, and in any case it is pre-determined by "social" movements. Do we not then become, from this point of view, just toys in the hands of fate?
This view is totally unacceptable to us. Aside from"scientific" theories, we should provide solid ground for our Christian position on this subject, not doubting that it is true for all people. Our whole mindset will be determined by this principle.
Two elements in the world. Dead nature.
The universe consists of two elements: the dead and the living one. Strict laws of physics govern the dead element. The essence of its activities are reduced to the formula: "Cause and effect." It contains masses of "matter," mainly in its coarse, almost wild form, and physical "energy." Both are in constant motion, with a plethora of elements, the union and division of which automatically produce strict and precise results. These results can be precisely predefined. In fact almost all of them have been studied by precise science, and humanity uses this knowledge in its own interests and needs, sometimes to its own detriment. Mathematics is the ruler in this sphere. Mathematics is in itself perfect accuracy. Mathematical rules are strict and unchanging. In its application to dead nature, to the determination of causes and effects, mathematics reveals and enlightens the strict uniformity in going from cause to effect. In this worldly element laws are automatic.
Laws of reason and objective.
The living element is another matter entirely. Life itself is a mysterious essence and existence. In the most elementary beings, beginning with bacteria invisible to the eye, automatism and mechanicity are visibly surmounted. Living beings, from the lowest forms upwards, reveal their own will in movement, in the desire to eat, in some elements of orientation, in the ability to feel, in comprehension, and then in a form of reason and "purpose." This purpose may have various directions. Of course, here the law of "cause" is active, but it is regulated by "personal" yearnings: a plant knows when it is healthy to turn to the light, when it must hide or open the shell of its flower. On the small planet Earth — what a richness of forms of living beings in both the plant and the animal world! And the source of their nourishment is dead matter: earth, air, water, and so on.
And how expedient it happens to be, that dead nature is unchanging in its "laws of cause"! And how easily the living element is able to use the dead one!
And what an incomprehensible active Wisdom is revealed to us in their union and coordination!
Life is amazingly capable of coordinating itself in relation to dead nature. Nonetheless, freedom is inherent to it as well. Life cannot be locked within the iron cage of necessity. It has the strength within itself to break the bonds of dead nature. Clearly, life has a particular, special beginning in the world, which is spiritual in quality. Reason, will, the ability to feel and react are inherently contained in life.
What greatness of conception! What fullness of existence in this coordination of death with life: a domain where only the laws of cause and effect have their say, with another one, where freedom and expediency are ruling!
The man is an occupant of the earth and its director. But he is also a son of the earth. He is, in a sense, more than other beings a part of the living element. At the same time he is tied to his body, which has been taken from the dead nature, governed by precise laws of mathematical causality. He requires the comfort provided by the regularity of of the body’s laws. He is also capable of limiting this "pressure of necessity" exercised by the body.
Animals also possess purpose, but with humans it steps forward to a much greater extent as general engine, directing, regulating and protecting their actions. The freedom of the life’s spirit sometimes only complicates his situation when two impulses, coming from two sources: body and soul, collide,.
Besides this, we have our own "spiritual reasons," which come into conflict with our general expediency. We must not also forget that we, Christians, have our own laws of Christian willful purpose. All of this creates a complexity as well as a richness of our inner life.
Social life is made up of individual lives, that is why it contains everything which belongs to each person individually. Still, the situation here is more complex. Each person has his own path of life, his own plans for tomorrow, his own freedom and his own submission to necessity. When possible, this can be brought to agreement, but sometimes a conflict may arise.
We recognize that humans differ from animals by the loftiness of their objectives. If we apply the same measure to society as a whole, can one really name the effort to limit the life of the latter within the sphere of purely practical, although comfortable and convenient existence, based on the assumption that this existence – of an individual as well as of the society - is purely "rational," earthly, short-term and, in effect, senseless, "true progress" ? But it is such progress that is today recognized as truly scientific.
One might say, from a materialistic or agnostic point of view : "You forget that the planet Earth is like a grain of sand in the universe, and you see yourself as the center of creation, and on this you build your religious ideas, relating your conclusions from the specific to the general." Let us reply to such possible remark. In discussions about God, one can only speak of the Creator and Provider of the entire universe and our Saviour. The reproach turns back on its source, when we hear the announcement, supposedly of scientific nature, but with a mysterious quality, that there is an element on earth that, in properly combined with other elements, provides a beginning and a starting spark to life; it is only required that the combination occur, and the seed of life will arise. But no one has yet revealed such a law among the precise regularity qualitative of all earthly matter. Do we have to await an unexpected "accident?" On the other hand, if the earth is a grain of sand in the universe, as it truly is, and if one imagines an accident and makes it an example for the possible appearance of life in the universe, then will not such an image of the origin of life appear as child’s play? In fact, we see that, in all the kinds and genders of living beings, life comes from life. This is its law.
We bow down before the greatness of that holy Biblical panorama which is portrayed from the second line of the first chapter of Genesis and is chosen in condensed form and offered to our hearing in the Old Testament readings of our three greatest feast days: the Birth of Christ, Epiphany and Great and Holy Saturday. We present the beginning and the end of this Church reading. Genesis 1:1, 13:
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters… And God said: Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so… And the evening and the morning were the third day."
"And God said."
The entire creation of the world was accomplished within six days, as is related in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. The separate acts are expressed in three words: "And God said." Clearly, the word "said," repeated nine times, symbolizes the will of God and its unhindered and absolute fulfillment. The first time it is said, according to the text, the dead masses are filled with life-giving light, necessary for the existence of future living elements. In the following short Godly statements something like "seeds or rays of life," are sent into the world. They are not purely physical, but possessing spiritual, weightless, instrumentally immeasurable properties. Such grains of life will attract and enliven the parts of matter and earthly energy, thus filling the world with living beings. The man in this earthly sphere is God’s highest creation, his soul carrying the "breath of God into his face."
"And God said… and (there was) the evening and the morning…" These words were first said about the third day, and were repeated consequently. Each evening and morning were the beginning and end of the "nightly period," when in each living being on earth, including each of us, the invisible and intangible process of growth is occuring, when strength is regained, and all the powers are refreshed and renewed. In the morning we arise and see something new in nature: a flower has opened, or a new being has appeared. Is this not the process we find in the Biblical narrative? After each verse, "and it was so," - we read a confirmation: "and God saw that it was good." This perception is very much alike to that of a human being.
Moses wrote his narrative for the people of the earth, for his nation, for their and our spiritual instruction. For this reason it is limited to the theme of earth and mankind. We are not forbidden to consider the possibility that somewhere in other places in the universe conditions similar to those we see on Earth might also exist.
Our thought is struck by something else: the loftiness of spirit and thought of the prophet Moses, his daring, by human measure, but God-inspired, by its indications, acceptance of the following task: to give a general image of the Earth’s creation, the appearance of humanity on earth; its first history; the history of his nation, as God’s chosen one; to affirm monotheism in this people and begin the history of God’s Church in the Old Testament. His national language was primitive, and abstract ideas were foreign to it. The writing abilities were primitive, too. But the task was accomplished, and this four and a half thousand years ago!
If the principle of "result" clearly acts in the sphere of our world, if harmony in coordination with the laws of its inanimate nature is expressed in its most vital parts, the former inanimate elment being of service to the latter, if we see profound intelligence and order in all of this, — from this we are filled with a consciousness of God’s blessing and goodness, — we can only rejoice in the greatness of the creation of the universe and our earth; to think and act so as to be worthy of God’s goodness and God’s gifts, inimitably recorded in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans:
"O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!…For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (Rom. 11:33, 36).
The heavens are established
by the Lord’s Word.
"In the beginning was the Word… All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:1,3)
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Ps. 33:6).
An article in one of our church periodicals has proudly spoken about the height and fullness of the Christian viewpoint expressed in the four Gospels. At the same time, it expressed the unacceptable and false notion that in the first phrases of the Gospel of John, where the Lord Jesus Christ is named "Logos" in the Greek text and "Word" in the Slavic text, this name was supposedly borrowed by the Evangelist from Greek philosophy, namely from the Judeo-Hellenic conceptions of Philon, the Jewish philosopher in ancient Alexandria. "Although his views do not coincide completely with the Gospel of John, much will remain unclear without getting familiar with his philosophical theory," claims the article.
A Christian soul cannot agree with this.
In the entire span of New Testament books where does one see an attempt to establish a link between Christian truths and Greek philosophy? Does not the Apostle Paul say about the wisdom of this age: "Let no man deceive himself…For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain" (1 Cor. 3). Whom does the Apostle Paul rebuke for blindness and narrowness of mind? And concerning the Apostle John we shall say: was it necessary to turn to worldly philosophy for him who declared with all the strength of spirit: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5:4-5).
If the Evangelist John had had, in his mind, an certain mysterious image of a "Logos" for which he was writing the Gospel, he would have continued using this name for the Lord in his writings. But this does not happen. That same first chapter of his Gospel is filled with other names for the Savior: Life, Light, Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, Lamb of God, Messiah, Son of God, King of Israel, Rabbi, Son of man. And only in the 14th verse of this chapter we read: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" … But this is very far from any philosophical image, because we read later on: "And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
Yes, the Gospel from John is truly the Gospel of the "Word," but the "Word of God," for it almost completely consists of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and, besides, the Lord Himself witnesses: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me" (John 7:16). The Gospel from John is truly "Theology." It is the fourth Gospel written in order of time. But in the consciousness of the Church and in the practice of the Church’s service it is "first." The cycle of Liturgical readings begins precisely with the reading of the first chapter: "In the beginning was the Word…" Because of this honor, the author of the Gospel is called "the Theologian" in the Orthodox Church
We must definitively reject the affirmation of the mentioned article and similar ones, such as: "John used the concept of Logos, applied it to the name of Jesus Christ and gave this concept a new meaning."
Was the Apostle John some cabinet thinker, keeping track of the spirit of philosophy, in its true Greek or Judeo-Hellenic variation? Did his personal interest turn to papyrus or leather scrolls with philosophical ideas in a ancient library? Or would he use an accidental, on-the-fly idea for his great purpose?
There is only one other place, among the New Testament texts, where the Savior is called "the Word": in the 19th chapter of the Revelation of St. John the Theologian : "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him…had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God" (19:11-13). Biblical exegesis sees a direct tie to this image and as though its accomplishment in the vision described by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 63 of his book: "Who is this that cometh from Edom with dyed garments…Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? — I have trodden the winepress alone…and the year of my redeemed is come…Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; Thy Name is from everlasting…" (Chap. 63:1-4, 16).
The coherence of these two places in the Gospel and the Revelation, besides its spiritual meaning, is important to us because it confirms that the Apostle John wrote the Revelation, being inspired from above. It is also important because the Lord is called the Word of "God," which negates any philosophical idea of "Logos" as an independent Being, a mediator between God and the creation, or a "Paraclite" (as the author of the above-mentioned article referred to the Logos). The Lord calls the Holy Spirit Paraclite, or "Comforter," in His final discussion with His disciples.
That is about enough attention to the article. But still the question remains unclear: Why did the Evangelist refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as "Word," or "Logos," in the first lines of his Gospel? And at the same time, why do we find the name Logos, or Word, only in these lines of the New Testament? May the Holy Apostle forgive us for attempting to invade his holy thought, which is not clear enough for us, with our narrow and sinful minds, for entering into that region of the soul, which we usually call "the subconscious."
The attention of each Christian familiar with the Bible is attracted by the parallels one can notice between the beginning of the Old Testament book "Genesis" and the beginning of John’s Gospel from the very first words. We shall review these parallels.
"En arkhi" — "In the beginning" — are the first words of both holy writings. The Greek "arkhi" has three fundamental meanings: a) the beginning of an event or task, in the usual and common meaning of the word; b) leadership, domination, or power; c) historical, past, ancient, and in the religious sense — limitless and eternal.
In the book’s original language, Moses uses this word in its usual, primary meaning: God, prior to any of His actions outside Himself, created heaven and earth. The same word stands first in the Gospel of John, but the Holy Apostle elevates the idea of the Greek word "arkhi": "In the beginning was the Word" — Word, as the personal Godly existence, "was in the beginning" — before any other existence, moreover: before any time, in limitless eternity. In that same Gospel this word is repeated once more, with the same meaning: we present the verse here. When the Judeans asked the Lord: "Who art Thou?" — Jesus answered them: "Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning." (John 8:25) — Tin archin, oti ke lalo imin. So the first books of each Testament, old and new, begin with the same expressive word; but in the book of the New Testament it has a more elevated meaning than in Genesis.
Further on in the texts of both books, especially in the first five verses of each, we note this internal connection. Maybe it was not produced on purpose by the Evangelist, since the sequence does not exactly coincide. This connection could be a natural result of the essence of the subjects. Here we note the superiority of the New Testament events as compared with those of the Old Testament. We will now compare the parallel places in Genesis and in the Gospel.
1. "In the beginning God created…" "And God said: Let there be..."
2. "And the earth was without form, and void" (Lifeless)…
3. "And God said: Let there be light." — This is said about physical light.
4. "And darkness was upon the face of the deep…"
In the following lines:
5. About the Holy Spirit: "And the Spirit of God moved upon the waters…"
6. "And God said: Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness…So God created man in His own image…"
7. "And He rested on the seventh day for all His work which He had made" (Genesis 2:2).
1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Here the truth of Monotheism is elevated through the revelation of the second Person – the Son - in God. The expression "was with God" is clarified later, in verse 18: "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father."
2. "All things were made by Him (the Word), and without Him was not anything made that was made."
The verb "said" is clarified with the words "Said by the Word," which demonstrates the participation of the second Godly Person, the Creator of the entire world, the executor of the Father’s will.
3. "In Him (the Word) was life" (contrary).
4. "And the life was the Light of men." The subject of the thought is immensely elevated, although the same word is used.
About the Word, the Son of God: "And the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not" (contrary).
6. The words of John the Baptist: "And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him" (Chap. 1:31-32 - comparison).
7. About the Word adopting human nature: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (Chap. 1:14 - comparison).
8. The Coming of the Word to earth. The glory of the Savior: "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51— comparison).
This coherence of thoughts and expressions between the two holy books of the Old and New Testaments, this light of the Gospel, considered to be the first by the Church’s self-consciousness, which is shed by the latter on the first book of Moses, is confirmed by the words of the Apostle himself in the first chapter of his Gospel: "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (16-17).
And there is no need to look for a source of the "Logos — Word" name, which has become an inherent part of Christian tradition. And this name, or notion, is by no means foreign to the Old Testament: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Ps. 33:6), — it is said in the Psalter, which was part of the Hebrews’ daily reading. These words are identical in both the ancient Hebrew text and in the "Translation of the 70." The same is found in Psalm 148:4-7 and in Psalm 119:89: "For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven;" the same in Psalm 107:19-20.
But the final conversation of the Lord with His disciples is a source of still greater enlightenment for us: "And the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me" (John 14:24). "For all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you" (15:15). "All things that the Father hath are Mine" (16:15). This is the basic subject of that great conversation, as well as of the following prayer spoken out by the Lord.
The Orthodox Church lovingly accepted the naming of the Son of God as "Word" and uses it often, but never by itself, but with another of its attributes: "Thou didst bear the Word of God" ("It is meet), "O Only-Begotten Son and Word of God" (from the Liturgy); "All-powerful, Word of the Father" (prayers before sleep).
Faith as a dogma.
Our teacher of living faith, the holy priest St. John of Kronstadt, in his book "My life in Christ," notes: "Faith is the key to God’s treasury." This is a very valuable and wise definition of faith. Faith grants one access to the riches of Godly treasures of life and eternity. He continues: "It (faith) resides in a simple loving heart. If you can believe at all, everything is possible to the believer."
He also writes: "Faith is as if one’s spiritual mouth: the more freely it opens, the greater the flow of Godly sources into us; let this mouth open (in prayer) as freely as your bodily mouth; let it not be compressed by doubt and lack of faith: if it is compressed by doubt and lack of faith, then God’s treasury of blessings will be closed to you. The more open-heartedly you can believe in God’s All-mightiness, — the more the generosity of God’s heart will be revealed to you. When you ask in prayer, believe, that you will receive: and it will given to you" (My life in Christ, vol. 1, p. 242).
For this reason faith can be called the first dogma of Christianity. The entire New Testament is filled with the preaching of faith.
It is difficult to explain the notion of faith. The Apostle Paul says the following: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." "Substance of things hoped for" — is the admission that there undoubtedly is, was and will be He, in Whom we hope; here there is internal confirmation, mysterious notification, that this is how it is. "Evidence of things unseen" — even if you cannot see it, even if it is not revealed through external experience, still the invisible is revealed through internal experience: in the expansion of spiritual horizons, through joy or in another way — through prayer.
Faith is only valid and active in a person when its object is real, and not only imaginary.
Faith unites one with that in whom or in what one believes.
Faith can only be strong if the subject of faith is strong or proceeds from a higher Power.
Faith is joyful, but only when we believe in something perfect, genuine, and elevated.
True faith uplifts, gives wings, makes invincible, purifies, leads to heaven. Such is the Christian faith.
But if we make something false the object of our faith, it will only result in the destruction of elements of good in the soul; it will not be long-lasting and will yield easily to a similarly false object of faith.
When people tie themselves by faith to that which, although real, is low or evil, then such faith lowers their own morals, and they are caught in the nets of the evil powers.
Credulity is not faith. Credulity is an expression of frivolity, a superficial acceptance of that which one has just heard. Credulity reveals a laziness and naivete of the soul and of the mind. What is easily accepted, it lost just as easily.
Religious faith brings substance and meaning to a person’s life. It creates a fullness of spiritual life. It, even if temporarily or partially, separates one from low and earthly interests, leading into the region of elevated, morally pure, holy emotions. Is this faith acquired easily? — This depends on the spiritual state of the person, on the content of his thoughts, habits, and desires. The purer the soul, the easier will it accept good. The more sensitive it is to goodness, the easier will it answer the call from above. But faith is more demanding than credulity, because it always demands sacrifice. But on the other hand, this sacrifice, supported with faith, becomes easier, and in the more lofty, rare cases leads even to joyous self-sacrifice. Such faith requires almost no visible or mental proofs. This is why the Gospel says: "Blessed are they that have have not seen, yet have believed" (John 20:29).
There is sometimes sinless disbelief: "I believe, Lord, help Thou my disbelief." This confession did not hinder the healing of the possessed one. There was the faith of the Apostle Thomas, connected with a thirst for a completeness and strength of faith, expressed in the words: "Except I shall see…I will not believe," (John 20:25). This means, he will not have that joy, which he would have had upon "seeing," like the other Apostles have had. Sometimes, doubts or "suspicion" to good tidings of truth shows only how tremendously important this news is to the person, as well as how pure or great his soul is, as we see in the Apostle Thomas.
Religious faith is not alike to believing in one’s own power. Some religious sects are gravely in error, when they teach of the benefits and worthiness of faith "as it is," faith in that which is desired: convincing oneself of one’s health, success, or welfare. Such faith is self-deception and is an enemy of Christianity.
We can firmly call our Christian faith the first dogma of Christianity. We begin our daily confession of our Christian fundamentals with this affirmation: "I believe in One God," from the Nicene creed.
According to St. Irinaeus of Lyons, faith is the vessel for collecting living water, and this living water is the grace of God.
"It is impossible to please God without faith, for it is demanded that a person believe that God exists, and rewards those who seek Him."
That is why we are commanded: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves." — check yourself, whether you have faith (2 Cor. 13:5), teaches the Apostle.
To which capacity of the soul does faith belong: to the mind, to the will, or to thefeeling?
Partially, the object of our faith is contained in our mind. Still, this is more than knowledge or a"confirmed supposition" which can we often see in our lives. Faith possesses a unique motivating force.
It cannot be called a " phenomenon of will " because, though faith can move mountains, a Christian refuses his own personal will, giving himself over to the will of God: "Thy Will be done to me, a sinner."
Does faith belong to the realm of feeling? But it is more complex than an individual’s feelings: it has elements of fear, honor, reverence, humility. Therefore, it infiltrates the entire soul.
Faith is only active when the soul is united with God’s grace. And the latter happens to the greatest extent when the soul is beautified by and unified with love. As the Apostle Paul says: "Faith which worketh by love," which in the Church Slavonic is so well expressed by the words: "Faith, accompanied by love," as if the two are traveling together, supporting each other in their activity. (Gal. 5:6).
Faith is an active power. But it does not act through the power of imagination or self-hypnosis, as some sects will define it, but through being tied with the source of all strength — God. "He that believeth on me, as the scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," said the Lord (John 7:38).
Christ’s Church is founded on faith as if on a rock, on a solid foundation. "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens" (Heb. 11:33-34).
How should we understand the Lord’s words to the Apostles: "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you?" (Matt. 17:20) Does not the Lord speak about the possibility of developing faith in one’s own powers?
Of course and absolutely not. The mustard seed, no matter how small, has in itself a fullness of life. Containing life in the tiniest bit of "matter," it proceeds to its purpose and achieves it without the least deviation, without, so to say, personal sin. The Savior spoke of an ultimate perfection to which all Christians must strive. He spoke of the apex of holiness, where the believer is unified with God, Whose strength is boundless. The Apostles and all the holy miracle-workers succeeding them always performed healings and other miraculous acts in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of faith in Him and the power of prayer to Him, or in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, fulfilling the prophecy: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do" (John 14:12). When the people, astonished that the Apostle Peter had healed a person lame from birth, ran to the Apostles, Peter told them: "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?… And His name through faith in His name hat made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all" (Acts, Chap. 3).
The essence of Christianity is faith in the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, Who came in the flesh for the salvation of people, to grant them eternal life in God. The goal of all New Testament Writings is to firmly establish faith in those who are called by God and answer the call, as we read in the next to last chapter of John’s Gospel. In principle, all historical Christianity, Christianity in the broad sense of the word, stands on this basic point of faith. In the course of time it has splintered into many groups that are disassociated from one another. It is not surprising that the more sensitive Christians have pondered on how to overcome the divisions and differences in thinking. This idea comes from Protestantism. They want to enter the "movement" of old historical churches, notwithstanding the latters’ "orthodoxy" and conservative exterior that are so much foreign to Protestantism. The representatives of the Orthodox churches, on the other hand, finding themselves in difficult situations, hope to find some protection in this movement and thus answer the Protestants’ proposals.
The hopes of the ones are weak, the hopes of the others are pitiful. It is significant that organized atheism is not hostile to this movement and even supports it.
The Orthodox entering this movement forsake and even sacrifice certain points of their Orthodox faith. The most important in faith is forgotten and lost. All non-Orthodox Christianity has lost the Church. And the Orthodox, entering this "movement," the ecumenism, do not understand that they are leaving the Church. The Church is not a gathering or union of little-believers and sinners, led by "learned theologians." The Church is an existence or a unified spiritual world, a heaven-and-earth organism, whose Head is Christ Himself. The Church possesses complete holiness and unity. The Apostles are its spiritual leaders. It is truly universal, because it envelops the heavenly and earthly. And we, the earthly, live in it, breathe its spirit, but in it we are still "called." Being accepted into the Church, we are the chosen, but we still do not have the raiment to enter into Christ’s Chamber. "Verily, I behold Thy chamber adorned, and I possess no robe to enter thereunto." We are still in danger of straying from the path, as the many and many who have lost it. We are in the Church, but we are among those "being saved," not those already saved. And thus we must be particularly faithful to the Church, where we can receive help from our heavenly teachers and brothers.
I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which was, is and will be until the end of the world.
From Knowledge to Knowledge of God.
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And ye I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matt. 6:28-29)
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest…For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:19-20)
We usually use nature’s gifts to satisfy our daily needs. At the same time, we must sometimes defend ourselves against the forces of nature, and even fight them sometimes. Science applies its full force to the study of nature. This analysis is almost entirely dedicated to the application of nature’s powers and resources in a practical, utilitarian manner. The aesthetic rearing of plants is also motivated by a selfish desire to decorate our surroundings. The study of animal life looks non-profit in most cases, with its scientific observations and tests, but it usually stems from a materialistic worldview and approach. This utilitarian and earthly character of assessing nature in its sum total is regarded today as complete, intelligent, and rational.
But, of course, many people do not agree with this one-sided, narrow, and egoistic view, nor with its unhealthy influence on the human soul. If humanity as a whole declares: "Everything is ours," then individual morality makes its own conclusion: "Everything in front of me is for me," — and this is a reason already for a violation of social laws and crimes. This is a simple and natural conclusion.
We, on the contrary, live by Christian notions that are independent of this practical rhetoric. Nature in its greatness and fullness stands before our intellect. It is full of unsolved mysteries. It is full of reason, which is most likely inaccessible totally for the human mind. To the present day, unknown forces are revealed in nature’s most common events. The entire universe, as well as its parts, has its own direction, coordination, and purpose. It is full of reason.
It only remains for us to admit that the universe does not need humans to care for it. Even more so, our activity is often a violation of its rights. On the vast expanses of the earth dead plots or lifeless construction has replaced the places of living vegetation.
But the greatness of God’s creative hand, seen in nature, is not diminished by this. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Ps. 18:1) For this reason the mentors, fathers and teachers of the Church, from ancient times to the more recent, often direct our attention to nature — a preacher of God’s power, goodness, and greatness. Thus St. Basil the Great in his work "Six Days" described the birth of the universe in all its diversity, according to the description in Genesis. His brother, St. Gregory, the Bishop of Nyssa, followed up on the same subject, somewhat supplementing and clarifying Basil’s words, and partly paying special attention to the origin of humanity. The Venerable John Damascene in his dogmatic work "The Exposition of Orthodox Faith" even included a chapter about the movements of the heavenly bodies and their general formation, in accordance to the scientific ideas of that time. And the righteous St. John of Kronstadt not only called to see God in nature in his diary "My Life in Christ," but also said a long series of sermons to his parishioners about life in nature, according to the description of the six days of creation in the Bible.
We will now cite, by way of example, several passages about the life of plants and the human organism from the work of St. Gregory of Nyssa "About the Human System."
"Let us imagine a garden. A thousand different trees and various types of plants grow there, each of them different in appearance, color, and quality of growth. So many plants in one place, all nourished by the same moisture! Although the strength of the moisture, filling each one of them, is in essence the same, yet the plants use the moisture according to their different needs. In wormwood, the moisture turns rancid; in water hemlock, it becomes poisonous juice; in others — saffron, balsam, poppy — it develops other qualities: in one — it heats, in another — it cools, in the third, somewhere in between… In laurels, spikenard and similar plants — it is fragrant; in the fig and pear — sweet; in the grapevine it becomes grape and wine. The tang of the apple, the rose’s blush, the lily’s whiteness, the violet’s blueness, the hyacinth’s purple, and everything that can be seen on earth, growing out of one and the same moisture, differs in so many varieties of appearance, construction and qualities."
The holy bishop sees in all this the miraculous breathing of life. He calls it either the "life force," "mind," or, in a sense, "soul." This last notion he divides into three categories: "the growing-nourishing soul" in the plant world, "the sensitive soul" in the animal world, "the rational soul" in man. These are three consecutive stages, tightly knit together. And man, from the moment of his birth, passes through the initial stages, before his own rational soul is revealed fully, which from the beginning was already part of his potential.
Following the thought of the holy bishop, we can add that plants have the initial elements of "sensitivity," for example, to light, to warmth, even to foreign touch. They may even have the ability to react to what they "sense," and also the instinct to attract attention to themselves through their aesthetic side. Botanists can surely tell us so much about this!
St. Gregory then writes about man:
"A similar miracle is performed by nature, or, rather, by the Lord of nature, in respect to us as animated beings. Bones, cartilage, pulsating blood vessels, muscle fibers, ligaments, the body itself, skin, fats, hair, glands, nails, eyes, nostrils, ears and all that is similar and, besides them, thousands of other connections, differing from one another by various characteristics — all these are nourished by the type of food characteristic to its nature, so that the food, approaching each of the members, changes appropriately . If it nears the eye, it dissolves into this seeing organ and, according to the characteristics of the eye’s various parts, separates to nourish each of them. If it approaches the hearing organs, it mixes with the hearing ability; in the lip, becomes the lip; in the bones it hardens; in the marrow it softens; it changes into tension in the muscles, stretches over the surface in the form of skin, turns into nails, becomes refined enough to produce hair from itself, wavy and curly if it goes in winding movements, or straight and long if it moves in a straight line."
That which was said 1500 years ago begs to be supplemented by modern knowledge. Today we have at our disposal the results of such inventions of the 20th century, or more accurately — the last few decades, that appear to surpass the powers of nature: humans have surpassed the wisdom hidden in nature and perfected its blessings. So it appears superficially, at least. But one only need to look deep inside oneself to see that all the achievements of culture, including the computer, conform to God’s initial gifts that we carry within ourselves and make broad use of. Thus, in our brain, in this very humble case, we have an innumerable number of chambers, where we have our own dictionaries of various languages, if we have learned them, or ones available for them; miniature libraries, formed from the notes of our memory; archives filled with materials from our entire life; vocal or musical works memorized or etched into our souls; there is a photographic device where innumerable photos are kept; when we are alone, we have in ourselves an audience and a class for self-tutoring. The apparatus of our brain gives us the ability to play back at any time the content of a speech we’ve heard, or vocal works or visual pictures that have been impressed there. We keep in our brains our spiritual riches, but also often leave unnecessary trash. All this belongs to our eternal soul, and the landlord and manager of this wealth is our mind, our reason, that is also the evaluator of our collection. Its job is to bind our spiritual content, which is protected in an inexplicable manner within the brain, a physical organ, with all the surrounding life, with the help of a series of other physical organs.
St. Gregory suggests that his readers mentally place a person, as God’s creation, next to a sculpture or a painting of a person: what a difference between the creative power of God and the imitative creativity of humans! Thus we can ask, together with the saint, whether all the modern achievements of our mind are to be compared with the structure of our spiritual and physical self? Can we compare the life-abounding acts of the incomprehensible God, the One Creator and Provider, with the often lifeless, fake, and even dead achievements of human genius?
About the composition and purpose of man.
St. Gregory notes that in his time the question whether the soul or the body was created first was a subject of "bewilderment in the churches." In response to this, he negates the very wording of the question. Neither the body without the soul, nor the soul without the body can exist: they are simultaneous in origin. The other two opinions are fables as much as the teaching about the transition of the soul.
All three forces act in human nature, as mentioned before: the growing, the feeling, and the reasoning one. "But they are not three souls. The true and perfect soul is in essence one, intelligent and immaterial, united through the senses with the material essence." "Inasmuch as perfection of the soul consists of the mind’s power and the gift of word, then everything which is not so (in nature) can only be something similar to the soul, but is not a true soul, but only some living activity, comparable to the soul."
"Where could one suppose the ruling part of the soul to abide? Some say that the ruling center of the soul (the mind – Edit.) is in the heart. Others claim that the mind dwells in the brain." The former argue that the heart is in the center of the entire body, owing to which the voluntary movement is easily spread throughout the body. The latter see the temple of reasoning in the brain, saying that the head is constructed by nature as a certain stronghold of the entire body, with the mind residing in it as a king, surrounded by the senses’ areas on the brain’s outer layer, like its heralds and protectors.
"I also accept that the feelings are based in the brain’s outer shell, lying over the brain within the head, according to the scientists. For this reason the thinking power of the soul often becomes confused; I will not deny such assertions after listening to those who have done anatomical research…We also do not minimize the meaning of the heart…But let the empty babble of those be stopped who think to confine thinking activity within any part of the body as in a box… The soul and mind belong to the entire body, to all its members; the two rule over the latter as well… But inasmuch as the body is constructed like a musical instrument, then, as often happens in music, that professionals cannot show their ability due to the worthlessness of the instrument, — thus the mind, acting either on the entire instrument — the body, or on individual members, achieves results only when the members are found in their proper natural state; but if the members of the body themselves are not in their natural state, there the mind remains unsuccessful and inactive."
The body and the soul, according to a higher law laid down by God’s command, possess a mutual "starting point," "so that a person may be neither older nor younger than himself"…
As we say that a wheat seed or any other seed potentially contains within itself everything relating to its future ripeness: green leafs, the stem, the branches, and seeds, so we may as well assume that both elements of an organism, the body and the soul, are already present when everything is being sifted out for the beginning of a person’s life, with all their characteristics. An individual’s unique appearance is founded in his initial qualities. "We assume that what the living (organism) procures from within itself to serve for the beginning of its life is not something dead and inanimate. The state of death results from the loss of the soul."
"As the body grows from its very smallest to its full height, so the spiritual activity develops and is revealed in a person, in accordance with the development of the body. In the initial development of the body, there is only a growing power in the soul itself, like some root hidden in the ground … Later, when this plant comes to light and shows its seedling to the sun, the gift of sense blossoms. When it ripens and achieves the proper height, then it begins to show reasoning powers, like some fruit, not everything at once, but quickly growing along with the growth of its physical shell, bearing its fruit according to the person’s individual powers."
The Image of God in man.
This subject is most pertinent in our times, due to the fact that, for some representatives of Russian theological and philosophical thought, it is tied up with the sophiological ideas concerning a female presence in God. This results in a singular interpretation of Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." Applying the method of reverse deduction, contrary to the laws of logic, to these Biblical words, some people find support for the idea of a mysterious "Sophia," as a female facet in God,.
"What does the word "image" mean? And how do the male and female coexist in this image, when they are not present in God as the Primary Image?" —reads the heading of Chapter 16 in the above-mentioned writing of the saint. We shall relate the content of this and later chapters in condensed form.
The pagans used to say: "Man is a small world," consisting of the same elements as the universe. But by using this great name they did not notice that they honored man with the characteristics of the mosquito and the mouse…Why is it so important to honor man as the image and likeness of the world, when the sky and everything in this world passes away with time? According the church teachings, the greatness of man is not in his likeness to the physical world, but in his being the image of the Creator of all.
What does the word "image" mean? Only Truth itself can relate this clearly. But we, as much as we can, think thus by conjecture and supposition.
On the one hand, the pathetic poverty of human essence cannot be compared to the blessed impassivity of Godly life; on the other hand, — the Word, saying these words about God’s image in man, is not lying. Why is the Godly essence Blessed, while the human is calamitous, if in the Holy Writ the latter is considered comparable to the former? Let us examine the words precisely. It is said: "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him." The creation is completed in accordance with God’s image. Then these words are repeated, saying "male and female created He them," which seems to be at odds with the usual notion of God. For this reason our nature’s structure is, in a way, double: one is comparable to the nature of God, and the other is different, being divided into two sexes… "For I think, that some great and elevated dogma is being related through the Holy Scriptures through that which is said, and it is such: the human nature is positioned in the middle of two extreme natures, the Godly nature — incorporeal, and the wordless life — mute and beastly; from the Godly — verbiage and reasoning; from the mute — the physical structure, with the divisions into the male and the female…" " May no one become angry with me for the following thought. God, by His essence, contains all the good which can possibly be encompassed by thought, and higher than any good that can be imagined or comprehended. He creates man only because He is good…, and provides him with no lack of blessings. And the word of God, unifying all the good given to man, indicated this succinctly: man was created "in the image of God." If Godliness is the fullness of blessings, and man is in His image, then we are capable of everything wonderful, of any virtue and wisdom; and one of these blessings is freedom, because virtue is something which cannot be subjugated, but remains free always." All humanity has these excellent qualities, although called collectively, in the person of the first man, "Adam" ("one taken from earth"). That which is forced and compelled cannot be virtuous.
The saint answers the following question with great caution: why has the present method of reproduction been chosen for humanity, and not one that would "have likened us to angels." "Our opinion is such," answers he, giving the following reason: "Inasmuch as Creator saw with His "all-perceiving vision" that human choice would not lead humanity to its predestined perfection by a straight path, and therefore it would fall away from near-angelic life, then, in order that the number of human souls should not remain small by losing that ability by which the angels grew in number, — the Creator provides humans with another method of reproduction, one that suits the sinners better, making this method of succession more beast-like and senseless. It is for this reason, it seems to me, that the great David, pitying the poverty of man, cries over human nature with the following words: "Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psalm 48:20).
"I think, — continues St. Gregory, — that all passions stem from this source, flooding our entire life… Love of pleasure, having an animal-like beginning, gained power in human life through the assistance of thoughts. From this have come revenge, envy, falsehood, evil intentions, hypocrisy. All this sprouts from the bad intention of the mind. But in reverse, if reason takes power over such movements, then each of them turns into a virtue. Thus, irritability bears courage, timidity — caution, fear — obedience, hatred — loathing of vice, power of love — desire for the truly dignified, and greatness of disposition (knowledge of one’s worth) lifts one above passions… Thus the great Apostle orders us to be continually "setting your affection on things above" (Col. 3:2). Then the loftiness of thoughts will conform to the beauty of that, which is in the image of God. Those in whom initial beauty has not faded are a living confirmation of the truth of what has been said, that man has been created in resemblance to God."
God, who rules over everything, also foresaw that the human race would sometime achieve a certain fullness, and then this method of human regeneration will end. Time will end as well, and the entire universe will be renewed. With this change, humanity will pass from finite and earthly to passion-free and eternal life when the trumpet of resurrection will sound.
Thus, though man does sin after his fall from heaven, yet he keeps the image of God. His mind still has the traits of its Original Image. "Inasmuch as God is the most wonderful and superior to all possible good, the mind is decorated with the likeness of the prototype beauty, like a mirror reflecting that which is before it. Then the entire spiritual nature adheres to the mind and is itself beautified by similar beauty, becoming like a mirror reflecting another mirror; in this way one’s material side is also protected and upheld. Thus, "while one holds to the other, true beauty is commensurately reflected in everything; that which decorates the higher immediately beautifies the lesser. But when this good union is annulled, or when the higher follows the lower, then, when this lower matter departs from its norm, its non-imagery is revealed (because matter itself alone has no image and no structure). Then, through this lack of image, the beauty of one’s nature, previously enhanced by the mind, is spoiled. Then the impurity is transferred to the mind itself, so that the image of God can no longer be seen in the features of the creation (man). The mind, in itself remaining an image of goodness, now, like a crooked mirror, does not reflect the beautiful features of goodness, but reflects the ugliness of matter. Thus, through the deletion of the adorable, the evil is introduced."
"We, on the other hand, fearing such a disastrous result," —concludes the saint, — "hearing the call of the Apostle Paul: "Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3:9-10), — let us return to that God-like goodness, with which God created man in the beginning, saying: "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness."
When we familiarize ourselves with the works of the holy fathers, particularly those of the 4th and the 5th century, we can only bow down before the manner in which the fathers of the Church perfectly knew and employed their knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. On the other hand, one can only marvel what great knowledge of the sciences of their time they possessed, including history, natural sciences (as in the example above), philosophy and even pagan mythology (like St. Gregory the Theologian), to the extent that it assisted to the formation of a Christian worldly view. The given short excerpt from the works of St. Gregory of Nys, of course, does not show in what detail he examined the anatomical structure of the human organism and of all its organs, corresponding to the knowledge of his time. He did this in order to show what favorable conditions one has to fulfill his calling "to be a friend of God," as the prophet Moses is called in Genesis, and to keep his regal position on earth.
The present is very different. Modern directors of human consciousness approach the psychic of a person in the same way that nature is treated nowadays - with a practical and business-like mind. Its present state is accepted as the required, perfect norm, capable only of deviation to one side or another. Modern experimental psychology focuses on the study of various deviations, abnormal and, perhaps, artificial spiritual states. Hence the study of the psychology of the subconscious, its dark sources, shadowy spheres, expressed in dreams or half-conscious psychosomatic tendencies. There is no mention of psychology as an educational tool for the moral elevation of humans. History has kept the memory of human geniuses, providing a wealth of material for psychology, as well as for analyzing and clarifying the good or bad conditions for the spiritual perfection of a person. A link of modern psychology to religion would be even less likely to exist. Modern artistic literature is leading down the same decadent path.
Our epoch has fully revealed itself already. Will not a new one, coming soon, reveal spiritual powers in order to reinstate the union of scientific knowledge and Christian faith, in order to create a unified world view, the first steps to which were made by the Church fathers? Or will faith and science continue on their separate ways?
The Church about Providential Wisdom.
1. "The Church teaches us" - what does this mean?
How should we understand the expression "The Church teaches." I have been baptized, I am a member and part of the Church. Does that mean that I also participate in the self-awareness of the Church? And even more so, "we," taken together, participating in the services, learning the Law of God, are we not the spokesmen of the general awareness of the Church? Where is this "teaching" Church, from which we should seek instruction?
Let us try to answer this question.
For this, let us consider what Christ’s Church is in its fullness. Let us not forget that the Church is a holy part of God’s world. We cannot even imagine the vastness of the Church and the depth of its spiritual content. We are but temporary parts of the earthly Church, often diverted by worldly cares. Can we easily reach the spiritual level which would enable us to perceive the fullness of the Church’s life? For this reason we seek direction from the holy Church fathers of all ages. All those holy fathers had general consent regarding the faith. And we see that none of them taught anything about faith directly from himself, but partook from the source of the Church. What is this source? It consists of two parts: 1) the Old Testament scriptures and 2) the New Testament, the Gospel of Christ and His holy apostles.
Each of us is a citizen of his country, but does each of us know all his country’s territory, its content, its needs, all its laws? Neither should we simplify our view of the Church, the catholicity of which is expressed not only in the unity of its heavenly and earthly members, but also in the fullness of its mysteries, some of which are open and accessible to us, and some are completely unknown.
We must admit that when people, too sure of themselves, consider themselves empowered to add to the teachings of the Church, either through their philosophical or personal considerations, this only shows that they do not know the Church. Either they do not admit that the Church has a ready answer they are looking for, or they are invading areas that even angels fear to intrude.
An example of such unjustifiable self-assuredness, connected with a lack of knowledge of the Church’s teaching, can be seen in the unacceptable teachings of a group of Russian philosophers about "Sophia — the Wisdom of God," perceived as a mediator between God and the world in God’s providential acts. We should be aware, therefore, of the true teaching about God’s All-wise Providence.
2. The Wise and All-Encompassing Providence of God.
The majestic fullness of the providential acts of God in this world are revealed sequentially in two forms: 1)The Old Testament states that the entire universe is preserved in God’s "right hand"; 2) The New Testament shows the highest and most perfect expression of God’s wisdom and love in the incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of the world and its transfiguration into the Kingdom of Glory.
In this latter conclusive, expressly New Testament meaning, Wisdom is the name given to the Lord Jesus Christ. "The Greeks seek after wisdom, — writes the Apostle Paul, — but we preach Christ crucified... Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." —"But we speak the wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom…which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor. 1:2). Either in this apparent, open fashion, or in a mysterious and hidden one, everything is united within one all-encompassing Wisdom of God. And the Church firmly and directly preaches our Saviour to be the Personified Wisdom: "Neither of wisdom or power or wealth do we boast, but of Thee, the Father’s facet of wisdom, Christ!" (Irmos 3, Canon 4th tone).
Yet we need to consider the Old Testament image of wisdom more attentively, because of the present-age attempts to introduce something new, also under the name of "Wisdom," into Orthodox faith.
The first page of Genesis, relating the creation of the world, offers us enough to stop searching for some independent worldly wisdom outside the Tri-faceted wisdom of God. The 103rd psalm would be sufficient, even in its first lines: "O Lord my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honor and majesty…In wisdom hast Thou made them all!." The 138th psalm marvelously presents the consciousness of a simple believer, whose soul is entirely immersed in God’s providence:
O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.
For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
The Old Testament representation of God’s Providence is universally Christian. And one must admit that these feelings are ancient, genuine, and perceived with freshness. The Providence of God in Old Testament writings is often presented through live images, through allegories and personifications, because life itself is the subject. The same methods are used in artistic literature, and even in our usual speech.
Among the Old Testament books, two books in particular abundantly refer to wisdom. These books are the Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon. Personification is widely employed in them, giving the reader an opportunity to imagine the Biblical wisdom as personified. But, in fact, imagery is the most common method of expressing one‘s thoughts.
Allegory is present in our speech all the time: the weather is "deceptive," sight is "failing," holidays are "approaching" and so on. Personification is the general artistic technique. "Why, gloomy woods, are you pensive? Darkened with sadness?" "Heavenly clouds, eternal pilgrims! Racing on the azure steppes in a chain of pearls, same as I, outcasts, from the beloved north toward the southern lands." (M. Lermontov) "My bluebells, flowers of the steppes? Why do you, azure ones, look at me?"(Russian folk song).
In addition, the writer of the book of Proverbs gives a warning in its first words that he is writing mainly for the "youth" and for the "simple," hoping that the reader is capable of "comprehending the parable therein," that is, allegory, "intricate speech and its riddles."
At the same time the author definitely states that he is speaking of the Godly source of Providence present in the world. We thus have the right to relate separate excerpts of the two above-named books to others, where the Old Testament thought rises to the coming of the Savior into the world as the highest expression of God’s Providence.
Human wisdom is also praised in these books, if it is united with moral sensitivity, because the latter also has Godly Wisdom as its source.
3. Wisdom is not a personal entity.
Wisdom is a quality, an attribute of personality, in other words — an abstract notion. A quality is not a real object or entity. School grammar taught us, that only those nouns denote real objects that, so to say, originated as nouns: the sea, the sky, earth, the tree, the hill. But those historically stemming from adjectives, verbs or numbers: a trip, a rest, a washing, a decade, a century — are ideas without a personal existence, requiring a separate carrier. We call such nouns abstract, in contrast to the nouns of the first type — the concrete ones, which are representing specific objects or persons, at least, in our imagination. The sophiologists probably know all this better than we do. From such abstract ideas and nouns, derivatives from adjectives and verbs, polytheism has created a whole imaginary world. Wisdom, love, courage, male beauty, femininity, commerce, fertility — have became gods and goddesses. Is there anything real or personal behind these ideas? Nothing and no one, just emptiness. Such was the religion of the Greco-Roman world.
Each object and each living being has its own vast number of features, attributes, and distinctions. Wisdom by itself is only an attribute, it can be either complete, as the wisdom of God, or limited, as in creations. Both forms are presented in the Book of Proverbs. If wisdom has a number of attributes attached to it, it doesn’t mean that it is their sole owner, it is only the first among others, each of them having its own name, while the whole group of attributes has its own general carrier under its own name. Maybe for this reason sophiologists add the name "Sophia" to "Wisdom," as though the latter carries the former as an attribute. But this, in fact, is pure tautology (redundancy), when identical things are named in two languages. The name does not enhance the content of that to which it is applied.
What is the matter then? Aren’t the sophiologists using Biblical names to introduce substantial, concrete concepts foreign to Biblical and Christian truths?
What a departure from the Christian worldview!
How contrary all this is to the very idea of Biblical monotheism! There is nothing in common between monotheism and polytheism in their very essence, just like between faith and atheism. The whole essence of religion of the once God-chosen people, the entire ardor of prophetic speeches, exhortations, threats, cries of spiritual pain, were directed precisely at the battle with this heathen "cult of life," with the cult of "ancestral beginnings of life," in its lowest form, and this was what made up the spirit of polytheism in different variations. Biblical religion is completely free of this element. The Bible sees all the tragedies of the people and its whole history from the point of view of its falling into the base heathen ideas and the orgies of these cults connected to them. The prophets foresaw and explained the destruction of the state, the troubles of the nation, as direct punishment for departing from the pure moral monotheism, for betrayal of God.
Must we speak on this theme in connection with Christianity?
The first birth of a person, that is, the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, according to the book of Genesis, was not without purpose a birth "without a wife." Christianity received its beginning in the same way: the embodiment of the Son of God without a husband.
In reply, we are offered the following quote from the first chapter of the Bible: "in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." From this a reversed conclusion is derived: that which has been established in human nature, is also characteristic of Godly nature. But such a conclusion is a violation of the elementary law of logic — a reverse conclusion by analogy. I see my face clearly in a smooth mirror: but I do not deduce from this that my face is also smooth and shiny, like the mirror. The Apostle writes of the heathen: "But became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:21-23). Do we have to imitate them?
We can only praise God for the wise order upon the earth. Through the Wisdom of God, through the stream of innumerable births, through the joining of male and female elements of creation, countless variations of forms, types and appearances are achieved on earth. A change of generations is created through these conditions, a fullness and harmony of the whole, and such richness of individuality that there is none, nor was nor will be two people completely alike, nor even two trees that are as alike as two drops of water. But the wisdom of God set down the law of reproduction through the physical union of two creations of one type, giving them the corresponding variations in bodily structure. And not only differences in form are achieved. Even more: a family was formed, the basic cell of human society. But, alas! They are now even trying to destroy the family… But only in the family, from their childhood, do people learn to love and unselfishly serve each other!
4. Sophia as "the soul of the world?" A "feminine element" in God?"
When sophiologists use a more simple language, they reveal to us that they mean the "soul of the world" to be the carrier of wisdom.
This is another matter entirely. One should recognize from the beginning that the idea of a "world soul" is completely foreign to Christianity and the Bible. Sophiologists should stop their attempts to find Biblical support and Christianize their ideas.
In reality, the perpetrators of the idea of a world soul follow different paths: they either end up with pre-Christian philosophy, or borrow the idea from Gnosticism or directly from paganism.
Christianity has openly rejected this teaching long ago, along with Gnosticism, after attempts to wedge it into Christian consciousness.
Why did this idea exist in Christianity at one time?
A soul is the very core of anything, inherent and incorporated into a being. It would follow, then, that all negative occurrences in the life of the world, of the humans, of every conscious being, all the evil that exists, would be the fault of the world soul. Otherwise, what kind of a world soul would it be, if it would only bear responsibility for the positive elements in the world? No, it would suffer under the great weight of evil, powerless to revive its all-encompassing body. Does humanity need it perhaps, so that people could shove off their personal responsibility? Such a temptation is dishonest, vain, and, indeed, futile!
If this soul is to be imagined an ideal, pure, Godly creation, an "angel-protector" of the world (there is such a viewpoint, too), then, in the presence of Godly Providence, what does it give to the world?
And here, instead of an answer, we find another, a more deeply concealed motive of sophianism. They say that there is something missing in the Church’s teaching about the world, namely, it is lacking the "feminine element" widely found in nature. Here the discussion reverts to the very beginnings of existence. We can also clearly see a fall of modern Christian worldview into the swamp of ancient heathen polytheistic ideas and cults. Having been studied in detail in modern times, the ancient cults are fully revealed to us, openly speaking, as clearly obscene and heinous, partly attracting the attention of and being cultivated by modern writers. Of course, only the pure idea is extracted from them by the sophiologists: the idea of a completeness of the world structure, a "fullness of life," expressed by the presence of the two main components in the living world — the male and the female one. And since, according to modern non-church views, Christianity is but one of the numerous religious systems, then, for the sake of its leading role among the latter, the idea is born to supplement the Church’s teaching with a purified idea of the "feminine source" as an active power in the world.
But we dare not apply the laws of life, implemented only on earth, to the realm of the Godly and the heavenly, to the realm of the angels and other incorporeal spirits!
Sophia as "The Fourth Facet?" We will answer but briefly.
If we imagine her to be a facet of the One Godly being, then there is no place for her in Christianity, even in its forms standing farthest from Orthodoxy. There are Christians who do not confess the Most Holy Trinity, but there are none that confess a Quad.
And even if it was a "physical facet, " then it could only be a first, giving start to a countless number of other physical beings, in other words: faces, individuals. They cannot claim that by her existence she absorbs all personalities standing below her, including ours!?
5. The World’s Life in the Holy Spirit.
The human world lives in a sinful state.
And in fact all "the creature was made subject to vanity, no willingly, but by reason of him (man) who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:20-21).
But God’s mercy, goodness, love, charity, and love of man have no boundaries. Nor in the Word of God, nor in the faith of the Orthodox Church is there even a hint of some collective, unifying, and at the same time individual, "soul of the world." "Every soul, every breathing being, is enlivened (given life) by the Holy Spirit." The 50th psalm, a product of the Old Testament, the perpetual companion of Christian prayer, witnesses the eternal faith in the Holy Spirit of God, present in the world and the believer: "Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit." — we pray with the words of this psalm.
The author of the book "The Wisdom of Solomon" thus confesses his faith: And Thy counsel (God) who hath known, except Thou give wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from above? (9:17) Wherefore I prayed, and understanding was given me: I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me… (7:7) For wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her is an understanding spirit holy, one only, manifold, (not like "spirit" — creation, but like the "breath of the power of God," like reflection of eternal light and the pure mirror of God’s actions and the image of His grace — pages 25-26), subtil, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good, Kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pure, and most subtil, spirits." "And thy counsel who hath known, except thou give wisdom, and send thy Holy Spirit from above?" (Wisdom of Solomon, 7:21-23; 9:17) "For thine incorruptible Spirit is in all things" (Wisdom of Solomon, 12:1).
Protecting themselves and their nation from diabolic polytheistic ideas, the spiritual leaders of the Hebrew nation firmly kept to the ideas of monotheism. But even in the Old Testament the idea of a mystical Existence of the Word in the Father, the notion of the Holy Spirit, as well as the idea of the Trinity, appeared among the chosen people.
Wisdom is inherent in all the three Facets of the Most Holy Trinity. Christianity preaches "Christ — God’s Power and Wisdom." But wisdom is contemplated in the Holy Spirit as the life-giving, eternally acting power in the world and as the source of Godly grace and holiness.
There is no difference as to which grammatical gender is used to express the notions of Christian faith. It only has to do with the characteristics of one language or another. For example, the word "Spirit" in Greek is in the neuter gender. And in Russian, all "qualitative" nouns, not related to concrete objects, are expressed in the feminine.
The Old Testament author of the "Wisdom of Solomon," as he himself witnessed, loved the wisdom emanating from the Holy Spirit, "more than health and beauty" (7:10). Why should not we, the members of Christ’s Church, recognize the Holy Spirit as the universal Source of life: "for from the glorious beauty of the creations their Creator becomes known through comparison" (13:1-5). The Orthodox Church service is filled with the glorification of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in one Essence. It is found in the concluding exclamation of every litany, in the conclusion of nearly every prayer. All the Mysteries of the Church are performed by the power of the Holy Spirit. We begin all our prayers by addressing the Holy Spirit. Immediately upon baptism we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit. The Church sings the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit in special short hymns in the Sunday matins, part of the all-night vigil, in the so-called anabathmoi antiphons. "By the Holy Spirit hath all holiness and wisdom been observed…" — "Verily, glory and honor become the Holy Spirit," "Verily, all the richness of honor is of the Holy Spirit. And of Him too is grace and life for all creation. Wherefore, He is to be praised…" "Verily, all creation together is regenerated by the Holy Spirit," "Verily, by the Holy Spirit every divine one seeth and uttereth things to be, and performeth heavenly wonders," Verily, in the Holy Spirit all shall live," "Verily, the Holy Spirit doth overflow with streams and passages of grace, and doth water all creation with refreshing life," "In the Holy Spirit is the fountain of divine treasures; for from Him cometh wisdom, awe and understanding." "By the Holy Spirit are all creations seen and unseen preserved, for He is the Creator of all the essence of creation," "in Him doth all creation live and move," — "for through Him doth every living thing breathe," "Verily, through the Holy Spirit is everyone made divine; and in Him is pleasure, understanding, safety, and blessing," "Verily, the Holy Spirit hath might over all; for Him do all the heavenly hosts worship, and every breath below." "In the Holy Spirit is the fountain of divine treasures; for from Him cometh wisdom, awe, and understanding. To Him, therefore, be praise, glory, might, and honor." "By the abundance of gifts, the richness of glory, and depth of the great ordinances." — "Verily, the Holy Spirit is the Cause of all, and containeth in Himself the harmony of safety. And the Spirit, who is their equal in appearance and on the throne, hath shone from the Father likewise."
There is no gap! There is no place for a "world soul!"
The Church teaches us this world view. The Church lives in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit presides in it. The Church’s prayerful thoughts about the Spirit are constructed in such a way that we could comprehend this constant presence of the Spirit in the believers and among the believers. We always ask for a renewal of His nearness to us.
Life in faith.
"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Why is God called Light? Clearly, it represents God’s perfection: perfect Kindness, in perfect Purity, perfect Holiness, perfect Truth, perfect Goodness and Love, united with Bliss, perfect creative Power, perfect Contemplation, perfect Consideration and Leadership for the world.
According to the Church Fathers, Light is not the essence of God, it is the fullness of His attributes and their expression. And the Psalm-singer expresses their manifestation in the 104th psalm, with the words: "Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment."
St. Gregory the Theologian teaches:
"God is Light, the Highest, Unapproachable, Indescribable, and Incomprehensible to the mind and Inexpressible in words." (The word on Holy Epiphany). "Therefore Godliness by Its essence is nameless… The wisest and most ancient of Jews could not tolerate having the name of God and the names of creatures written using the same letters. Nor did they dare pronounce the very name of the pre-eternal and single Being. Only in some ways can one apply the word "Am" to Him, not only because He Who spoke to Moses called Himself that, Who ordered him to tell the people: "I AM (Jehovah) hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:14)… but because there wasn’t and will not be any limits or end to Him" (Word 30, the 4th about theology).
"We have seen the true Light."
The brightness of God emanates onto the world. It descends into and penetrates the human souls. We dare think that it penetrates not only the souls of Christians, but also the souls of those whose hearts yearn upward, who thirst for the knowledge of God.
It is important to remember that the words "light of faith" are not only a "symbol" of the experience of faith. They express the genuine enlightenment or brilliance of the soul. That same St. Gregory the Theologian gives us the following examples of this faith, expressed in the Psalms in the Old Testament, in his words on the feast of Epiphany ("the Feast of Light"):
"Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death" (Ps. 12:3).
"Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart" (Ps. 96:11).
"Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey" (Ps. 75:4).
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Ps. 26:1).
"O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me" (Ps. 42:3).
"Lord, lift thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us" (Ps. 4:6)
"In Thy light we shall see light" (Ps. 36:9).
In the New Testament Church this shining light is stronger and more abundant. It was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah: "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of His people" (30:26)… And also: "Arise, shine; for Thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee…and the Gentiles shall come to thy light" (60:1-3).
The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is noted in the first lines of the Gospel, particularly in the Gospel from John, in the first Easter reading, which is the beginning of the annual Liturgical Gospel readings. In this reading, the words about the appearance of Light into the world are repeated six times, as if proclaiming the light of God’s love to the entire world (1, 4,5,7-9).
The Savior taught His disciples: "You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…" (Matt. 5:14, 16). And about Himself to the Pharisees: "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12)
We cannot forego mentioning the Apostolic letters to the newly converted, at least briefly.
The Apostle Peter thus describes the meaning of entering Christ’s Church: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
The Apostle John the Theologian: "For the Life was manifested, and we have seen It, and bear witness, and she unto you that eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us…God is Light…If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1).
The Apostle Paul: "Ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9)
Together with this illumination of the soul, this elevated enlightenment of reason, the Word of the Bible teaches us, a joy, or breath of bliss, is introduced into the soul.
"Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart" (Ps. 126, Ps. 96).
St. John the Forerunner says of himself: "The friend of the bridegroom… rejoiceth greatly…this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:29-30) (in matters of public service). The Apostle Paul, when confessing about himself: "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20) (such were the troubles caused by the enemies of his preaching), is filled with Christian joy and passes this on to his spiritual children: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say: Rejoice." (Phil 4:4). "My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown" (Phil. 4:1). This message from his letters to the Philippians is present as well in his other holy letters. Christ’s confidant, the Apostle John, expresses this more strongly: "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4). We see here the truth that a growing moral perfection is accompanied accordingly with a joyous state of the soul. Concurrently, as we see even from these short excerpts from the epistles, there is a growth of love, of a loving, meek, and kind attitude towards everyone. In addition, those striving toward the Light clearly see their own defects, and even more so their downfalls, they are not enamored of their own acts. This produces a natural noble humility, and particularly, the fear of God is instilled, which is expressed in the 85th Psalm, as well as in the priest’s prayer during vespers: "May my heart rejoice to fear Thy name." Such is the specter of a Christian’s spiritual states. This is what "Living in the Light" means. Thus the Light of God is poured out into the world.
Two types of enlightenment.
We, the modern people of the so-called "Western culture," live by necessity in two spiritual circles: a) the circle of timeless Christian Enlightenment and b) the epoch of "enlightenment" begun in Western Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. We live in the age of rationalism, or practical thinking, which has gradually departed from religious beginnings, particularly in the age of "Voltarianism." In our century it has amounted to a direct persecution of Christianity, falling mainly on the Orthodox Church, and particularly on the Russian Church. According to the goals of this general epoch, only earthly goals are worthy of social attention and even of existence. A concern for eternal life, or the perfection of one’s life according to the spirit of the Gospel has no place here. And for the protection of "social ethics" and order, common teaching and police-like vigilance, along with detention facilities, are deemed perfectly sufficient. Such are the values of this era. But its realities are all before: millions killed for their firmness in faith, thousands in prisons and exile for protesting the physical and moral pressure, a wave of international and civil wars, a growth of crime, a collapse of morality, an abundance of moral and physical suffering.
Notwithstanding all the violations in the field of religion, it seems obvious that the positive part of practical western culture has grown from a Christian foundation, — be it printing (Guttenberg, the Bible, Church books), artistic literature, "novels" (springing from the hagiography of the Roman scholastic period), the works of great composers (written initially to be performed at Church services), art (from Church art), or architecture (from the intricate designs of Church architecture, particularly in the East).
On the other hand, we are aware that the Christian faith does not reject earthly culture and one’s daily needs, to which the Holy Scriptures themselves attest. Thus, we read in the Gospel that in the forty days after Christ’s resurrection, the disciples of the Lord set out on their nightly toil of fishing. The Apostle Paul, completely devoted to the preaching of Christ’s Resurrection and Christ’s teaching, also spent time making tents, in order that others were not burdened by keeping him. The Evangelist St. Luke was both a physician and an artist, besides being the author of two major holy books: The Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.
But, by the Lord’s word: "Man does not live by bread alone." And our personal self-awareness teaches us, that our scope, and thus our purpose are above the demands of plain existence, and to limit ourselves to this physical side means to deprive ourselves of the fullness of life. But we will say, from the Christian point of view: it is more than a deprivation of spiritual joys on earth, but also of the blessings of eternal life in God, and this means spiritual death!
Light and darkness.
Inasmuch as modern knowledge has penetrated into the past history of mankind, it appears apparent that two great ideas were initially inherent to man: faith in God and a notion of eternity (in the Bible — of the heavenly "tree of life"). It was always understood that if there was no eternity in God, then for every man in the future, after a short and always uncertain, although perhaps even a "happy" course of life, death will come, meaning collapse, emptiness, darkness. And this hopeless latter outcome — death — completely erases the meaning of the former: the earthly life. In the very "worldview" of the unbelieving person the final line is emptiness and darkness.
But the Christian worldview is different, named shortly "faith." The Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples and other people about faith in the Sermon on the Mount: "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there will you heart be also." "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, (in the Slavic, "prosto" or "simple," that is, in direct, healthy condition) thy whole body shall be full of light." (We shall clearly see our steps, our acts and ourselves). "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!? (In Slavonic, the translation is, how many times is it greater! — Matt. 6:20-23) What kind of darkness awaits a person in the future, if he has already removed himself from Godly light here on Earth… Protect yourself, human, so that you do not declare yourself unbelieving, an atheist, and thus predetermine your fate in the "absolute" darkness (in the Slavonic, the word "kromeshniy" for absolute stands for "krome," or "without," "outside of" God’s light), external in relation to the omnipresent God…
The author of the non-canonical, but Church-revered book "The Wisdom of Solomon," in the last two chapters of the book, gives a frightening image of absolute "Egyptian darkness," which befell Egypt before the exodus of the Jews. This is a symbol of the other one, "eternal darkness."
For the believing person, for the Christian, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). And in addition to the words of the Sermon on the Mount quoted above, the Evangelist Luke adds the following words of the Lord: "If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light" (Luke 11:36).
On such candles of faith does the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church have its beginnings and is established.
The Church of Christ,
according to the teachings of St. Simeon,
the New Theologian.
The holy Apostle Paul, in one of his epistles, gives the most elevated and complete understanding about the Church. He wrote to the Ephesian community in the days of early Christianity, when the latter was barely 30 or 40 years old and was represented by small communities scattered around the Roman Empire. The Apostle was bearing chains, as if a crown, for his good tidings about Christ, and in this isolation was especially enlightened by divine light. He wrote that the Church is the Body of Christ, that is, one living heavenly-and-earthly organism. This understanding of the Church has been carefully maintained by the universal orthodox consciousness. This majestic view of the Church is presented as the "fullness of Him (Christ) that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). It is described as a new existence, the essence of which is the "bond of love," an existence uniting "heaven and earth" with strong and constant ties. The epistle says : "The head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16). Toward this goal, writes the Apostle, Christ established in the earthly part of the Church "some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11). But what are these ties, uniting the parts of the Body "according to the effectual working in the measure of every part"? What are these "active" ties, producing the "development" of each single part of the Church, and at the same time, a growth, a perfection, and a fullness of the entire heavenly-earthly body of the Church, united under Christ as its single Head? Of course, the universal bond that unites the Church body is prayer. For what is the Church itself, if not a "world of prayer?" We can call prayer the air, the breath, the life of the Church. Like the threads in a weaver’s loom, the threads of prayer go in all directions; they unite each member of the Church with the Heavenly Father, the members of the earthly Church with one another, and the earthly members with the heavenly. The same occurs in the heavens, in the regions of the angels and saints, only on a higher and more perfect level. Mortals pray about each other, and, driven by the law of love, for the deceased. The ones now in heaven pray about the mortal ones, and, equally, about the deceased, should they need help. Praise and thanks travel by these prayerful threads in both realms of the Church. Here on earth they are accompanied with penitent thoughts and feelings.
Of course, the ties within the church are expressed in certain actions and activities, but this aspect is only derivative, having prayer as its original source.
Such an understanding is maintained in full only by the Orthodox Church, corresponding to the latter’s very structure and daily life. Our Church service is a direct indicator of this understanding of Church life.
Is this understanding also maintained in the teachings of the holy Church fathers? Yes, the holy fathers’ thoughts are filled with it. We present an example from the works of St. Simeon, the New Theologian, who lived on the time between the first and second millenniums (he reposed around 1020 AD). We will consider his thoughts about the inner life of the Church of Christ as a heavenly and earthly body, expressed in his 24th "Word." In the thoughts presented, the saint does not even make a definite distinction between the two possible conditions of the Church members — earthly and heavenly, — not because he rejected them, but to make it clear that the Church is "one Body under One Head," a "fullness of the One Fulfilling all in all."
This is what St. Simeon teaches:
"All saints are truly members of Christ, Our God. As members, they are united with Him and connected to His body, so that Christ is the Head, and all the saints, from the beginning to the last day, are His members, and all of them together make up one body, and, in a way, one person. Some are like hands, toiling to this day, fulfilling His holy will, transforming the unworthy to the worthy and presenting them to Him. Others are the shoulders in the body of Christ, who carry each other’s burdens, or, taking up the lost lamb that was recovered after being lost in the hills and gorges, bring them to Christ, and thus fulfill His law. Others are like the breast, from which springs the pure water of wisdom and reason to those who hunger and thirst for God’s truth, as they teach them God’s word and give them spiritual bread, which the holy angels eat, that is, true theology, as confidants of Christ and His beloved ones. Others are like the heart, in which, through love, they encompass all humans, accepting within themselves the spirit of salvation and serving as the vessel of the unspeakable and hidden Mysteries of Christ. Others are like the internal organs, which have in them "the life-giving power of Godly thoughts of mysterious theology," and through the words of their teaching sow the seed of piety in the hearts of men. Others, finally, are as bones and feet, which show courage and patience in temptation, like Job, and are immovable in their position of goodness, and do not avoid the pressing difficulties, but gladly accept them and cheerfully carry them to the end. In this way the body of Christ’s Church is made up in orderly fashion of all His saints from the beginning, and exists complete and all-perfect, in order that all the sons of God would be one, reborn, written in the heavens.
I will prove that all the saints are Christ’s members and are in one body through the Holy Scriptures. First of all, listen to our Savior Himself, the Lord Christ, as He presents the indivisible union, which the saints have with Him, in the words to His apostles: "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me" (John 14:11) "At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" (John 14:20, also 17:20-26)…
Inasmuch as the deity, imparted to us through association with the Lord, is indivisible, then it is necessary for us, becoming truly in communion with this Deity, to be inseparable from Christ, being one body in one spirit (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11, 1Cor. 12:1-14). As God gives each saint his proper place in the eternal abodes, as we said before, so in the body of the Church each person is assigned to the kind of members of Christ that fits him best. The Apostle Paul shows this in the same letter, saying: "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him" (1 Cor. 12:18). Thus, there are many members, but one body. Desiring to show the differences of these members, and what these members are, he says: "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:27-28).
"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32). And truly this mystery is and will be great, and above everything great. Our Lord, the Creator of All, has the same unity, association and relation with the entire Church, as with one wife, and is one with her, and is always inseparable from her, as with His beloved. But this unity is befitting of God, as it is fitting for God to be one with the Church, which is incomprehensible and unutterable. Again, the Church also unites with its beloved God, and clings to Him as the body to its head. For as the body cannot live without its head, so the Church, a collection of believers, that is, the sons of God, written in the heavens, cannot be a whole and perfect body without its head — Our God Christ, and cannot live a true and eternal life, if it is not nourished by Him daily with necessary bread, from Whom all who love Him receive true life, and grow to a perfect man, by the growing measure of His fulfillment.
Inasmuch as the Church is the body of Christ, and the bride of Christ, and a great world, and God’s temple, so the members of His body are all holy. At the same time, not all of them have yet been born anew or shown them worthy. It is clear, then, that the body of Christ is not completely whole yet, that the higher world is not yet filled, that not the entire host of people have yet entered God’s Church. But to this day there are still many unbelieving people in the world who are going to become believers in Christ, there are many sinners, whose duty is to repent, there are many insubordinate, who will submit to Christ. Many will yet be born anew and serve God, before the last trumpet sounds. And thus, all those foreseen by God must be born anew, and the Church’s firstborn must fill the heavenly Jerusalem, immeasurably higher than this world. Then the fullness of the Body of Christ will occur, and those predetermined by God will conform to the image of His Son, becoming the sons of light and day." (The Words of St. Simeon, the New Theologian, translated by Bishop Theophan, 1st printing, Moscow, 1892, pages 383-391).
Missionary Leaflet # E77d
Copyright © 2003 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)