Glory to God for All Things

The Presence in the Absence

There is a strange aspect to the presence of God in the world around us. That aspect is His apparent absence. I read with fascination (because I am no philosopher, much less a scientist) the discussions surrounding “intelligent design” and the like. I gather that everybody agrees that the universe is just marvelous and wonderfully put together (I can’t think of a better universe). But then begins the parting of ways as one sees God everywhere and another sees Him nowhere. Reason surely need not deny Him, though reason does not seem forced to acknowledge Him. I have spent most of my life around these arguments – one place or another. I can stand in either place and see both presence and absence.

But as the years have gone by, I have come to see something I never saw before – the Presence within the Absence. I don’t mean to sound too mystical here – only that I see in the hiddenness of God a revelation of His love. The Creator of us all draws us towards Himself and knowledge of Him, with hints and intimations, with seen and yet unseen signs.

The strange deniability that He leaves us is the space in which love is born. Love cannot be forced, cannot be demanded. It must come as gift, born of a willingness to give. To give God trust that what I see is indeed evidence of the wisdom in which He made all things is also a space – one which God fills with Himself and the echo, the Yes, that the universe shouts back to us.

It is where I grow weary of the arguments – not because they need not be made – but because it becomes hard to hear the silence in the noise of our own voices – a silence that invites us to hear the sound of the voice of God that rumbles all around us.

There’s more to say – but not now.

 

16 Responses to “The Presence in the Absence”

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  1. kevien says:

    AMEN Brother.

    Does God hide or do we sleep.

  2. Daniel Wilson says:

    In like manner, Father, cannot something of man’s “glory” be intuited from his “depravity” which we see everywhere?

  3. Doug C. says:

    I no longer see God’s absence in things or people. I see Him everywhere: in the rising of the sun every day, showing me the Ressurection of our Lord daily. In the falling of leaves and decay of winter leading to the glories of spring, showing me death trampled down by death – leading to life. In the joy exhibited by the most impoverished children, unhindered by the weight of adult doubt and fear. In inmates in prison who at moments show their humanity amongst the “worst” people and conditions. I feel Him guiding me and leading me to love those around me and elsewhere, even when I have no so called “attachment” to them. I am finally understanding my salvation intwined with those around me.

    I no longer enter into the debate over intelligent design/creation/evolution as God does not need me or others to decide His capacity or method of creation. It is enough to pray. It is enough to accept my own inability to understand the universe and the God who created it. It is enough to not say more, and to be quiet in the caucauphony of life and to listen.

    Thank you Father for this post!

    Doug

  4. Michael Boover says:

    Thanks!

  5. Timothy says:

    “How could this universe have had foundation or constitution, unless God gave all things being and sustains them? No one seeing a beautifully elaborated lyre with its harmonious, orderly arrangement, and hearing the lyre’s music will fail to form a notion of its craftsman-player, to recur to him in thought though ignorant of him by sight. In this way the creative power, which moves and safeguards its objects, is clear to us, though it be not grasped by the understanding. Anyone who refuses to progress this far in following instinctive proofs must be very wanting in judgment. But still, whatever we imagined or figured to ourselves or reason delineated is not the reality of God.” – St. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 28.6, page 41 in On God and Christ: the five theological orations and two letters

    “The mark made on the mind by the divine and mysterious signs of the Spirit is very different from apophatic theology … theology is as far from the vision of God in light, and as distinct from intimate conversation with God, as knowledge is different from possession.” – St. Gregory Palamas, page 207 in A Study of Gregory Palamas by John Meyendorff

    “There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good!’ The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is impressed upon us.” Psalm 4:6.

  6. davdperi says:

    Some of these thoughts are in the Philokalia…God presence everywhere…I don´t think we really understand what Orthodoxy says about this because of our predeposed secular. God help us!

  7. mike says:

    ..driving to work today i experienced one of those “moments”…the scenery is rolling farm land..today though everything was coated with a shimmering layer of ice..there was a slight fog and everything was still…when conditions are like this it’s the ‘silence’ that is most apparent..then the awesome beauty strikes you and it is in this combination of sensory extasy that i sense GOD in the moment..which has me pondering the connection between God and Beauty..whether its beautiful scenery/painting or even music…?

  8. Lina says:

    On the other hand, Tuesday night was bitter cold when I left the library around 8:30pm for the 12 mile drive home after tutoring someone there.
    Wednesday morning my car refused to start. The diagnosis, a dead battery. However in the silence of the non-start, I praised God for his oversight, in that the battery died in my garage and not out on the highway at night far from home.

  9. MichaelPatrick says:

    Linda, what a nice insight. That He calls you to save dead life (tho a simple dead battery), He treats you like a loved daughter, because that’s just what He does all the time with us and the world we’ve broken. Glory to Him!

  10. Margaret says:

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen!

  11. Ibn Battenti says:

    Well put, Fr. Stephen. Too often do we deny Him the time and space to show us That which He has purposefully hidden from all creation!

  12. ernie says:

    “I no longer enter into the debate over intelligent design/creation/evolution as God does not need me or others to decide His capacity or method of creation. It is enough to pray. It is enough to accept my own inability to understand the universe and the God who created it. It is enough to not say more, and to be quiet in the caucauphony of life and to listen.” – Doug C.

    Amen, I say. And again, amen.

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