Monday, September 5, 2011

True Knowledge of God

"When a person rises from bodily knowledge to the soul’s knowledge and from that to spiritual knowledge, then he sees God and possesses knowledge of God, which is his salvation." Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

It is common in today's world to forget the mission we as Orthodox Christians have to work on ourselves so we can become worthy to receive God's grace.  We also forget that this is essential for our salvation which is a union with God. We may be too comfortable with regular church attendance and periodic participation in the sacraments.  It's like we think salvation will be handed to us on a silver platter as long as we adhere to a few of the Orthodox Traditions. This is reinforced by our US culture which is basically Protestant where it is common to think, I believe, therefore I am saved.  Of course we must believe, but this is only the beginning according to the Church Fathers.  

Christ told us, "those who are pure of heart will see God".  So in addition to belief, which is bodily knowledge, we have to lift ourselves to spiritual knowledge.  This is a spiritual experience with God that is beyond any bodily knowledge.

Metropolitan Hierotheos says,
Knowledge of God... is not intellectual, but existential. That is, one’s whole being is filled with this knowledge of God. But in order to attain it, one’s heart must have been purified, that is, the soul, nous (intellect) and heart must have been healed.
Saint Gregory Palamas gave us this teaching very clearly and was affirmed in an important council. He taught us that deification, theosis, is not something abstract but the actual union of man with God.  In this union we behold the uncreated light of God like the Apostles Peter, James and John saw at His Transfiguration.  This "light" will be seen not with our physical eyes but with inner spiritual eyes.  This vision is knowledge of God that is beyond all human knowledge and our senses.

Our challenge is to ask ourselves, Do we aspire to this spiritual knowledge?  Or, are we satisfied with the mundane intellectual knowledge of this world?  With the right desire we will be lifted to the higher plain and find the true union and knowledge of God.  This is salvation from an Orthodox perspective.

In conclusion I offer the following quote from Saint Gregory Palamas in his Triads,
“One who has cleared his soul of all connection with things of this world, who has detached himself from everything by keeping the commandments and by the dispassion that this brings, and who has passed beyond all cognitive activity through continuous, sincere and immaterial prayer, and who has been abundantly illuminated by the inaccessible light in an inconceivable union, he alone, becoming light, contemplating by the light and beholding the light, in the vision and enjoyment of this light recognizes truly that God is transcendently radiant and beyond comprehension; he glorifies God not only beyond his nous’s human power of understanding, for many created things are beyond that, but even beyond that marvelous union which is the only means by which the nous is united with what is beyond intelligible things, “imitating divinely the supra-celestial minds” (2,3,57)

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