Archive for March, 2015
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 – 1881) – Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist, and philosopher.
“… And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek… And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us, ‘You too come forth,’ He will say, ‘Come forth, ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!’ And we shall all come forth without shame and shall stand before Him. And He will say unto us, ‘Ye are swine, made in the image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!’ And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, ‘O Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?’ And He will say, ’This is why I receive them, O ye wise, this is why I receive them, O ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.’ And He will hold out His hands to us and we shall fall down before Him… and we shall weep… and we shall understand all things! Then we shall understand all!… and all will understand, Katerina Ivanovna even… she will understand… Lord, Thy kingdom come!” And he sank down on the bench exhausted and helpless, looking at no one, apparently oblivious of his surroundings and plunged in deep thought. His words had created a certain impression; there was a moment of silence; but soon laughter and oaths were heard again.” ~ Marmeladov’s Vision from “Crime and Punishment”
I AM THAT I AM. Yes, indeed, it is He Who is Being. He alone truly lives. Everything summoned from the abyss of non-being exists solely by His will. My individual life, down to the smallest detail, comes uniquely from Him. He fills the soul, binding her ever more intimately to Himself. Conscious contact with Him stamps a man for ever. Such a man will not now depart from the God of love Whom he has come to know. His mind is reborn. Hitherto he was inclined to see everywhere determined natural processes; now he begins to apprehend all things in the light of Person. Knowledge of the Personal God bears an intrinsically personal character. Like recognizes like. There is an end to the deadly tedium of the impersonal. The earth, the whole universe, proclaims Him: “heaven and earth praise him, the sea, and everything that moveth therein” (Ps. 69.34)…
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St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395), is one of the three Great Cappadocian Fathers along with his older brother, St. Basil the Great, and friend, St. Gregory of Nazianzus. I especially love Gregory Nyssen for his deep spirituality and mysticism. He was a highly original and sophisticated thinker who remains controversial among both liberal and conservative theologians to this day. In his treatise The Life of Moses, St. Gregory tells us that a person’s encounter of the mystery of God corresponds to the three theophanies of Moses, involving successive entry into light, cloud, and darkness.
According to St. Gregory Nyssen, the first stage in our quest to encounter God is Moses’ vision of God as the light of the burning bush; illuminating the darkness of our sin and ignorance. The second stage involves a journey from light into partial darkness where Moses encounters God as the ‘cloud’; the intermingling of light and darkness, revealing the distance between the Creator and the created realm. The third and final stage entails Moses entering the darkness of Sinai where God is; and our realization upon encountering and even being united with God that He is utterly incomprehensible in his essence.
In this treatment, I think, St. Gregory of Nyssa clearly identifies both cataphatic and apophatic theology, bridges the two and holds the tension between them, drawing the best from both.
“What does it mean that Moses entered the darkness and then saw God in it? What is now recounted seems somehow to be contradictory to the first theophany, for then the divine was beheld in light but now He is seen in darkness. Let us not think that this is at variance with the sequence of things we have contemplated spiritually. Scripture teaches by this that religious knowledge comes at first to those who receive it as light. Therefore what is perceived to be contrary to religion is darkness; an escape from darkness comes about when one participates in the light. But as the mind progresses and, through an ever greater and more perfect diligence, comes to apprehend reality, as it approaches more nearly to contemplation, it sees more clearly that God cannot be contemplated. For leaving behind everything that is observed, not only what sense comprehends but also what the intelligence thinks it sees, it keeps on penetrating deeper until by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding it gains access to the invisible and the incomprehensible and there it sees God. This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness. Therefore John the sublime who penetrated into the luminous darkness, says “no one has ever seen God,” thus asserting that knowledge of the divine essence is unattainable not only by humans but also by every intelligent creature. When, therefore, Moses grew in knowledge, he declared that he had seen God in the darkness, that is, that he had then come to know that what is divine is beyond all knowledge and comprehension, for the text says,“Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.”” ~ The Life of Moses
“All our attention must be centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son. We all see ourselves in it as in a mirror. In a few words the Lord, the knower of hearts, has shown in the person of one man how the deceptive sweetness of sin separates us from the truly sweet life according to God. He knows how the burden of sin on the soul and body, experienced by us, impels us by the action of divine grace to return, and how it actually does turn many again to God, to a virtuous life.”
– St. John of Kronstadt