Glory to God for All Things

The Secret Hand of God

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANow Moses built an altar and called its name The-Lord-My-Refuge; for with a secret hand the Lord wars with Amalek from generation to generation  (Exodus 17:16 LXX).

After a number of decades as a Christian pastor, I am convinced that most of what God does in our lives and in our world remains hidden. I have many thoughts as to why this is so – but that it is so, I have no doubt. There are things in my life, which at the time they took place, seemed confusing and contradictory – but after careful, slow, reflection, seem to have been the hand of God. There are things that I have suffered through the years, that I now see as beneficial and even salvific, that I would never have considered to be so at the time. As a pastor, I am always hesitant (with others people’s lives) to offer that insight. In the middle of pain, such “insights” can be very difficult to receive.

I have been a pastor (both Protestant and later Orthodox) for over 30 years. I have buried over 400 people, many of those deaths I was present for. I have seen the death of young children, the accidental deaths of children and spouses, suicides, and many forms of disease and suffering. Any one of these things can be overwhelming.

I can never begin to describe the difficult situations in which I have pondered and even doubted the goodness of God. I am sure that my experience would be echoed by the experience of many others. And yet, despite everything, I remain convinced of His goodness and kindness towards us in all things. I cannot say this in the manner of an argument. Someone else could see what I have seen and draw the dark conclusions.

The witness of Scripture draws a witness to the work of God: with a secret hand the Lord wars with Amalek. The secrecy of God’s work is perhaps what we find most scandalous. We would prefer that His work be open, undeniable and the content of our proclamation to the world. But believers often find themselves in the position of apologists, defending God, making effort in the face of human events to assure others that He loves us and cares for us. The most difficult attacks on the faith are those made against the goodness of God.

I believe the witness of Scripture holds the key: with a secret hand. What God is doing in our lives and in our world frequently remains opaque – we cannot see it clearly. I believe that this opacity has a double aspect – things are unclear because of the hardness of our hearts. We do not see the secret hand of God because our own lives are part of the darkness. But I also believe that the opacity is for our own benefit. The mode of life in which God’s hand appears hidden and opaque, is itself part of the problem. Were God’s hand seen as one thing among the many, an object among objects, an action among actions, we would remain unchanged. We fantasize and say that were we to see indisputable miracles that our lives would be different, we would believe. But this is not so. The manner of such belief is not salvific, it changes nothing.

The relationship between ourselves and the world around us, when we live in a mode of unbelief (opacity), is a mode of alienation. We live as an object among objects. We see, we measure, we compare, we judge, and everything remains distinct and removed from our inner life. The inner life is a mass of emotions, thoughts and desires, driven by the objects around us and our own inner fantasies. There is no communion. Relationships with other human beings become objectified. Others exist as part of our own narrative. “My wife,” “my child,” “my job.” The world revolves around the ego.

God cannot be known as an object. He is not one among many. Neither is the secret hand of God an object. I have often thought of God’s actions as occurring somewhere in our “peripheral vision.” We “see” them, turn to look, and they’re gone.

Most of popular Christian thought dwells in the world of objects. It is the reason that religious conversations are so filled with argument and disagreement. People speak of God with the certainty they bring to the sunrise. Mystical dogmas are presented with the assurance of mathematical formulae. There is a certainty within faith, and there is an assurance within dogma. But such certainty and assurance do not belong to the world of objects: they are also part of God’s secret hand.

God is good and all of His work is good. I can affirm this, believe this, and share this. But I cannot argue this nor make it transparent to a heart that is opaque. The very effort will darken my own heart.

The faith that sees the secret hand of God begins as a gift. There is no technique that can make it appear nor event of reason that gives rise to it. It is gift, pure and simple. But the gift does not come in a manner that removes utterly the darkness of our heart. The gift itself can be refused and dismissed. My own life seems to rest at this very point. The doubts and scepticism of the secular world of objects rail against the suggestions of faith. They demand that they themselves remain supreme. I imagine myself to be secure and safe within the confines of my own doubts. My skepticism protects me from the dangers of delusion and fraud, even though the skepticism may be the author of the greater fraud.

I was asked by a friend recently, “What makes a good confession?” I could only offer an answer from my own experience as a sinner. A good confession (for me) is one in which I bring the darkness of my own heart into the light of God. My darkness is generally surrounded in secrets – and not of the healthy kind. The light of God destroys the darkness of hidden sin and makes all things new. God’s “secret hand” is only for my healing. My secret hand is usually for my destruction.

The goodness of God is true and trustworthy. I bear witness to this as the truth – even with the flaws that my witness contains. But I have never heard it contradicted by the saints.

God give us grace to behold His secret hand and to give thanks always, for all things.

60 Responses to “The Secret Hand of God”

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  1. sergieyes says:

    I am very grateful to Fr. Stephen for explaining the LXX, which emphasizes the Hand of God is SECRET. In all other translations it is the Hand of the Throne. We see that hand in sacred tradition in icons. <>.
    Icons are part of Orthodox Theology. Obviously the iconographers knew of the secret hand. In the icon, it is translucent, or secret, not blatant.

  2. sergieyes says:

    The icon reference did not survive. Here it is:

    http://www.jyu.fi/taidehistoria/icons/nativity_of_jesus_christ.html

  3. David says:

    This was wonderful Fr. I think I’ll be going to confession tomorrow :-)

  4. Lewis says:

    Two premises upon which our culture operates are that everything can be understood and that the explanations will resolve another mystery. This maddening search for information brings a measure of temporary satisfaction but not a deep peace of heart and mind.

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen, for declaring (once again) that the Christian life is different. God knows all but we do not, cannot and will not. Insisting that we should is kicking against the goads. Your explication also reminds me of my personal need to be quiet and listen even if I do not know for what I am listening. God does and will lead me to understand if I need to.

  5. sergieyes says:

    Lewis, you are so very, very correct. I had a relative who was quite mad in the search for data devoid of TRUTH, aletheia. The problem is extremely severe.2 Timothy 3:7 Ever learning , and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

  6. Dionysio says:

    Father- your post has made me very curious. Curious as there seems to be an elusive bridge between doubt and skepticism and the ability to participate in authentic confession. How does one cross that bridge without having faith in the very secret which we are skeptical or doubtful of? Does faith exist along with doubt?….seems to be a paradox which leads one to need some sort of rational framework for the very secret we know is unfathomable…which would be another paradox.

    If the only answer is to be a recipient of a “gift” are we not selling ourselves short? If one achieves Theosis isn’t doubt eliminated? Is there more of a continuum between gift and inner knowing?

    Einstein said “Science without Religion is lame. Religion without science is blind”. I find in the name of faith alone we alienate the rational mind which otherwise may find a deeper faith through their rational themes.

    Just as Science is now discovering awe- is it time for the church to embrace science as they sure seem to be heading to a convergence. The end game seems to be both a rational framework for the secret hand, but also a admission that we cannot know anything with certainty. This, however, would require an adjustment of dogma on both sides right?. In this sense, rationality and faith do not have to compete. Thoughts?

  7. fatherstephen says:

    Dionysio,
    The gift is the beginning. Our reception and acceptance of the gift and life in its communion become faith itself. The rationality of science is not nearing convergence with faith, I think. They are different modes of thought.

  8. Michael Bauman says:

    Fr. I may be wrong but it seems to me that the Cross holds the answer. That point on which the divine/ human; the certainty/doubt; scepticism/ faith that seem so separate hang together– suspended. The point where the agony of life in this world, the evil of death, the viciousness of fallen man is seen in utter clarity (He saved others, let him save himself) is also the point in the midst of which God is glorified; forgiveness proclaimed yet His victory most hidden in the darkness of the tomb yet it is accomplished.

    The antinomies of the Christian faith seem to be its substance, its mystery and its “right in plain sight” hiddeness.

  9. Grant says:

    Many thanks for this Father. Profound as usual. “The doubts and scepticism of the secular world of objects rail against the suggestions of faith.” They do indeed, loudly and persistently. But somehow they can’t fill the silence and stillness of God. Keep up the good work. These posts are part of my own faith.

  10. it is amazing to hear so many cry against the “evil” that God does i.e. Dawkins (who calls God sadistic), Hitchens, etc. but they never stop to think about the darkness that blinds them. nor do we stop to ponder theirs or our own. neither those who think God carries out violent acts against us (Pat Robertson for one). thank you for this insight, Father. I think it is full of wisdom and forces one to first deal with one’s own wickedness and blind heart before we go about throwing stones. so very insightful.

  11. davidp says:

    A much needed sermon for me.

  12. Father, you raise an interesting question. How important is it that God is good? First and foremost it seems to me that what is important is that God is God. I have heard people say, ‘I cannot believe in a God who (lets children die of cancer/allows devastating tsunamis etc)’. And you’re right, responding to that with an apologia on the goodness of God can only lead into darkness, because it drives us to idolatry.
    I enjoy your posts so much! Thank you.

  13. Stephen Reynolds says:

    Excellent. Thank you, father!

  14. h west says:

    another post that i’ll have to come back to again and again.
    ‘God’s “secret hand” is only for my healing. My secret hand is usually for my destruction.’
    words to remember.

  15. fatherstephen says:

    Lyndal,
    I think it is utterly essential to understand that God is good. That all things work together for good is a corollary. The goodness of God is indeed mysterious – even fierce. But good. Without it, I can only see despair or fear. We can trust Him, and give ourselves over to Him completely, only by knowing He is good. It is reflected as well in His creation, which, He said, “Is good.”
    This is in contrast to arbitrary, or, even, sovereign. That God is God (yes), but if God is not good, all bets are off and we’re possibly in big trouble. If God is not good, then whatever the meaning of the universe is, I’m not sure it matters to anyone other than the not good God. Why should I care about a not good universe? Why should I care, for that matter, about a not good God, other than to fear Him, do everything I can to avoid His notice, or cooperate politely? But what would “God is love” mean if God is not good?
    The goodness of God is essential – and I think it is especially essential for faith. “Faith works by love.” Without goodness, there can be no love.

  16. Dionysio says:

    Michael- Is it possible that one of the antinomies in the secret hand of God is the existence of secularism? Is secularism the necessary duality of the Church’s Cross?

    Father- That potentially ? the purpose of mankind’s biting of the apple was the hidden seed of secularism, which led to material advancement which now must be followed by re-integration of secular beliefs into a continuum of thought versus being viewed a separate modes of thought?

    As you can tell, I am not Orthodox. My friend is a passionate Orthodox and is very emotional against secular beliefs and movements. I listen to him and follow your blog because Orthodoxy rings of Truth that most religions have lost in my opinion. But I do see where doubt, faith, apologistic attitudes and mystical dogma reflect complexity whereby an opportunity for simplicity exists by integrating, not resisting the secular mind in a way that maintains the Church and even enhances it. While this may sound like heresy to some, I have found comparisons of Orthodoxy to New Age movements and modern Psychology that are close, but fall short of describing the potential of this integration. I agree that Orthodoxy must protect the essence within Traditions (and Thank God it does!) but it also must challenge itself to ensure that protection isn’t itself short sited.

    In my mind, the potential is that seuclar/scientific and rational mindsets are a small part of the secret hand. To visualize this, I step outside my own box of space and time and see the world as a single flower attempting to bloom whereby minutes are millennia.. Of course, I am not attached to this concept or outcome but by my own admission as a seeker, it sure feels right versus the alternative belief that a dismal future is at hand if we believe the secular weight of the world is NOT part of the plan. I hope this makes sense.

  17. Polyxeni Tsaliki says:

    Dear Father Stephen,
    Could you please give me your personal e-mail?
    I thank you
    P. Tsaliki
    Athens
    Greece

  18. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio,

    Your question is important because it reflects a mindset with which we all struggle and some common but ultimately false assumptions. The great error I see that is both common and dangerous: egalitarianism. I hasten to add you are obviously not an egalitarian. However there is an assumption that the secular is equivalent to Tradition and the person of Christ.

    What truth there is in the secular is a shadow of the revealed truth. Unfortunately, the secular is not neutral as it appears. At base, the secular is destructive of the Holy because it is a creature of the denial of God, hatred of God and an unhealthy fear of Him.

    It is not so much that it is part of the hiddeness of God as it blinds us to His presence, grace and person much like a drug addict or alcoholic is blinded. God’s grace and mercy can transform anything we offer to Him, but it is a fundamental denial of the secular to make such an offering.

    The Holy and the secular are not compatible ultimately. Yet we live in the midst of it as a mustard seed.

  19. mary benton says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    I completely agree with your response to Lyndal – that it is essential to understand that God is good.

    I think that a big part of the problem is that we human beings have, at best, an extremely limited understanding of what “good” is.

    Generally we tend toward secular understandings – that “good” is when things go as I wish or when my suffering is reduced or eliminated. Although it is natural that we see things this way, we inevitably run into trouble when we try to conceive of God’s goodness in this light.

    As you also related, Fr. Stephen, I have suffered things that at the time made no sense whatsoever. The suffering itself was not good – but later I could see that what came out of it was a much, much greater good than would have been possible if the suffering had just been taken away (poof! the miracle we all wish for).

    I do not believe that God wants us to suffer. But this experience helps me to see that I really do not know what good is – nor can I see the potential good inherent in any experience at any given moment in time.

    But the secret hand of God: “It is gift, pure and simple.” As we accept the gift, gradually we begin seeing the unlimited abundance of gift given, in and around us.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

  20. Gene B says:

    How could God act in our lives in an open fashion? What if the only way to save someone is form them to go through terminal cancer? What if the only way to get stop someone from sinning is for them to have a stroke? What if that stroke is the only way to get a dysfunctional family back together? What if these or any other tragedies are the only possibilities to get people on the track to salvation? So many people would be mad at such a God, even as it is certain He is doing everything for our own good! Most wouldn’t understand or be scandalized. I think I have seen these things happen and I am constantly amazed at God’s never ending love for us all, even as so many don’t see it (yet).

  21. Dionysio says:

    Great feedback Michael. No I am definitely not egalitarian by any whole definition but I do admittedly look at syncretism as a higher form of truth.

    To use your example- like the addict is blind to truth- the addict who hits rock bottom may find Truth in a much more profound and permanent way compared to one who leads a mundane life. By no means does this suggest that we all become addicts…lol. It’s just an observation. What we know in psych is the addict is trying to suppress trauma and through recovery- they find a higher power.

    What I find from modern psychology is that the method by which we experience trauma and recovery as an individual is the same experience -the same process- of trauma and recovery as a whole. Society mimmicks the addict.

    In transparency then, my feeling or perhaps blind secular hope is that the progress of secular science has gone so far that it too, like the addict, is hitting rock bottom. So it too, like the addict, will find awe in a very profound way.

    IF this happened, it seems to me that would radically bring the mainstream back to the authentic church and as stated many times – we are so utterly secular. Secularism is the mainstream and it does eat at the fabric of tradition. But like the addict that transcends, if the metaphor holds true, it could also be the champion of tradition as well once we wake up collectively. Like the lost sheep rejoining the flock.

    Part of the recovery process I wonder since we all come from trauma – to me- is awakening or recognizing science and religion as a continuum- not opposing forces or incompatible views. So I actively look for compatibility- perhaps naively and with a small slice of egalitarianistism.

    Such is the path of a syncretist. Seeing truth and lies in everything at the same time. :-)

    I appreciate your feedback. I would love to find more on this subject. Any recommendations?

  22. fatherstephen says:

    Dionysio,
    The one element that is strikingly secular in your thought (unintentionally I would think) is the desire to see the big picture and to perhaps see how everything could be reconciled and work out. Get a better, deeper tradition, or an improved secularism, etc. You describe it as standing outside of your own box.

    But there isn’t really such a place. It’s sort of projected “omniscient” point of view, like an author in a book. It a position often assumed in modernity – particularly in historical writing and analysis.

    I can describe secularism, because I am the product of modern, secular culture. It’s the water I swim in. It is also something that I react to. I am also a Baptized member of the Orthodox Christian Tradition, who now struggles to live more deeply into that life even in the context of a surrounding secularism. The is a tremendous temptation to develop various “syncretisms.” To reduce the tension and find an easier way to live. But secularism, as I describe it, is the existence lived as though we lived apart from God. There’s not really a way to live in something that isn’t actually a life.

    Life within a Tradition, means allowing the Tradition to form and shape. It becomes the “ethos” of our existence. I believe Orthodox Christianity to be authentic existence, regardless of where it is lived out. But to live it authentically means to live in communion with God – always, everywhere, at every moment. The secret hand of God is redeeming all things. But secularism is not a “thing” – it is an attitude and a belief – a lifestyle. God is not redeeming all attitudes and beliefs much less all lifestyles.

    The present Western secular project is about two decades or less from possible financial and cultural collapse. After which we’ll be living in an increasingly Chinese construct – with some other large players. China is a recent twist on the secular motif – but I don’t really have enough experience of it to think of the consequences of what I’ve just suggested. What I do believe is that the “American century” is drawing to a close. Europe’s has already passed.

    Some of this may take place unnoticed if we can keep the televisions.

  23. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio,
    My Christian journey began in a syncretistic group. Once Jesus led me to the Church, it took about 15 years to be healed from the lies, half-truths and scars. Such ideas are toxic. I saw people loose their lives because of them and their souls.

    One does not arrive at the truth by making ice box stew bringing one’s soul to the truth is a refining process. One does not make something better by adulterating it.

    Besides, the truth is a person, Jesus Christ, we learn to love and be loved by.

  24. sergieyes says:

    Short and sweet. As you say, syncretism kills. Lies, half truths and scars abound. I am 100% of your view. My blessings father!
    Sergieyes

  25. Dionysio says:

    Sergieyes- Syncretism kills? Lies, half truths and scars abound?

    I always felt God would see the heart above all –

    – the last three posts demonstrate a progression of communication that reminds me of my Catholic upbringing. The church teachings would be filtered such that the most distant learners would declare that if one was not Catholic that one would go to hell.

    Be careful what you believe. Even your Orthodox Ecumenical Council has fingerprints of the fallen man on it.

    I love what I learned from my Orthodox friend who proclaims humbleness as at the heart of his Tradition. I wouldn’t know this and now I am a bit hesitant to ask. :-)

    Have a nice week. I will try to do a better Job in the future in communicating my thoughts so as not to create a digression of communication. I am still learning!

    “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”- George Bernard Shaw

  26. Sergieyes says:

    Dionysio, if there is a problem,I am associating myself with Michael Bauman. You are invited to address us both, with respect, but it is his words. And I agree with Mr. Bauman:
    “Michael Bauman says:August 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm
    Dionysio, My Christian journey began in a syncretistic group. Once Jesus led me to the Church, it took about 15 years to be healed from the lies, half-truths and scars. Such ideas are toxic. I saw people loose their lives because of them and their souls.

    One does not arrive at the truth by making ice box stew bringing one’s soul to the truth is a refining process. One does not make something better by adulterating it.

    Besides, the truth is a person, Jesus Christ, we learn to love and be loved by.”
    Respectfully, Sergieyes

  27. Dionysio says:

    Michael/Sergieyes-

    In trying to understand your point of view. Please explain how “syncretism kills”. I am confused as I thought the Orthodox church was inclusive as a rule based on my readings –

    “It is basic Christian doctrine that the Holy Spirit may act wherever and whenever. Presuming to constrain the activity of the Holy Spirit – to limit God Himself- is not the way. Orthodoxy recognizes and accepts the mandate to seek Truth and to follow the Holy Spirit wherever He leads, including in other religions or philosophies when his Truth is to be found there.” http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8089

    It may be helpful to understand that when I say I am a syncretist, I do not proclaim to be part of a new religion unless, of course, that is the religion of me only. I seek Truth which I find most often in this type of dialogue.

    With love and respect,

    Dionysio

  28. Victor says:

    Fr. thank you for this, a moving and helpful post.

    Both the fog shrouded picture of the Church and the thrust of your message put me in mind of C.S. Lewis’ “Til we Have Faces”, a very powerful retelling of a Greek myth that is entirely Christian in its essence…May all such works bring us to repentance when we are tempted to doubt God’s secret hand.

    Victor

  29. Boyd says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    There seem to be lots of English translations of the Septuagint floating around. Do you have a recommendation?

  30. sergieyes says:

    I am also very concerned with the LXX which often seems to present great treasures such as the Hidden Hand of God. Comment on this by Father Stephen would be very much honored.

  31. mushroom says:

    This is just what I needed this morning, Father. Thank you so much for confirming this truth.

  32. fatherstephen says:

    Boyd,
    The version found in the Orthodox Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers) is pretty good. I confess that though I use English versions when skimming to find something – I ultimately go to the original when I really want to study. I’ve never regretted the many hours I labored over languages in College and Seminary. Best investment of time that I ever made.

  33. Boyd says:

    Thanks. Any advice to a layman with a day job on the prospect of learning Koine Greek? My only language experience is some high school and college Spanish. Is it a fool’s errand? Where would I even start?

  34. sergieyes says:

    Boyd: you can start here: http://bit.ly/16qz27B

  35. Michael Bauman says:

    The humility it takes to trust in God’s goodness is something I can only begin to approach within Holy Tradition.

    There through the lives of the Saints I can see the fruit of such humility: joy, long suffering, all the fruits of the spirit.

    It takes humility to discern the truth and to endure God’s pruning

  36. Rhonda says:

    Thank you, Father, for the comments on Confession! Would that I had read them before making my Confession that evening…beautifully put.

  37. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio asks: “Please explain how “syncretism kills”.”

    I don’t have the time or space to give a complete explanation but I’ll give it a shot because you asked.

    Syncretism is, as I mentioned before, essentially egalitarian in nature and a function of the mind and will of man. While usually beginning with a good and noble end, it simply does not have the capability to achieve that end because of a fundamental miss understanding of the nature of truth.

    Truth is not quantitative. One does not get “more” of it by adding things to it. Truth is not a mental construct that we learn and adhere to.

    Truth is a person, Jesus Christ and His Church is the fullness of who He is in this world and the door to union with him beyond this world (which is also here and now BTW because of the Incarnation).

    To know Truth, a person has to submit to the love of Him who is truth, Jesus Christ, in His Church. There is no other way to know the fullness of the truth. The fullness cannot be added to.

    Truth is revealed by Him who is Truth through the Holy Spirit. Since, even though the Church (the Orthodox Church) is both the fullness of the truth and its pillar and ground, it cannot contain the activity of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, truth is found elsewhere, but its essential quality is not changed and we know it elsewhere because the Church knows Jesus Christ and her members share in that knowledge (some more some less–I am one of the lesser ones).

    Syncretism denies the fact that truth is revelation of a person and seeks to accumulate truth as a bunch of stuff picking and choosing according to the decision of the one choosing, a bit like a Chinese buffet.

    That way the so-called truth does not challenge, prune or transform. Thus death ensues even though the dying person thinks they are quite healthy, until the end. with each bit of false truth accumulated, the illusion of health is increased because the person thinks they know.

    Syncretism is a form of Gnosticism which is an ancient heresy that pre-dates Christianity but was condemned by the Church as a violation of the Truth (remember, the person of Jesus Christ), revealed to the Apostles and passed down (traditioned) to the disciples and ultimately to us. It takes humility to receive that teaching and maintain the trust undefiled.

    The humility at the heart of Orthodox belief and practice of which your friend has spoken it not the humility that we do not know and so must complete our knowledge.

    The humility at the heart of our faith is that God has revealed, is revealing and will continue to reveal the fullness of His person in Jesus Christ to us (to the extent that we can receive it). Our humility is to realize that however great and wonderful our own perceptions, formulations and thoughts of the truth may be (and they can seem quite sublime), they are as dirt when compared to the person of Jesus Christ in His Glory.

    As St. Paul said and St. Gregory of Nyssa repeated, in Christ, we move from Glory to Glory as we are purified by His grace. We grow in life as we grow in truth.

    Syncretism for all its promises is lifeless. It feeds our human will and pride rather than opening our hearts to Him who is Truth. Orthodox spiritual practice is largely a process of stripping away false beliefs about ourselves and God. As Father Stephen spoke of confession it is letting the light of God shine on our darkness. That can only be done in humility.

    That is why we tend to emphasize an apophatic approach of looking at the world and at our own hearts and saying: “No, that is not God; not that, or that, or that.” The opposite of syncretism. The lives of the saints are the proof of our process and approach.

    Syncretism tends to try and assemble “god” from his constituent parts which is fun because it leaves us in control and obedience is never necessary only accumulation of ‘knowledge'; thus its gnostic character. For me, the hidden hand of God lies in the fact that despite the allure of such nonsense all around me which seemed quite reasonable and attractive at the time, He sustained me and prevented me from falling completely into the trap. In part because I always wanted Him, not ideas about Him.

    Nevertheless, I was left with many scars on my soul. By His grace, I am strong enough now to not even be tempted by such things. By His grace, I am occasionally able to reach out and offer a hand to those in a similar trap.

    Look for Jesus Christ pray that He come into your life and guide you, have your focus on Him as Lord and Savior and the Truth will be revealed. This is the testimony of the saints and the teaching of the Church.

    Focus on the nebulous idea of ‘truth’ and you will be led deeper and deeper into the darkness of your own mind and the evil one will claim your soul. This I have seen with my own eyes.

    One other thing: We are not Catholic as in “Roman”. While there are many things that can lead a person raised in the Catholic Church to confuse us with them, we are not the same. Sometimes those differences are compatible, often they, unfortunately, are not. No one here is of the mind to send anyone else to hell. Such an attitude is not common in the Church and, IMO, contrary to our ethos. However, the way is narrow and we are constantly called to repentance and forgiveness.

    My prayer for you, my brother, is that Jesus Christ touch you, reveal Himself to you and that your heart may be open to receive Him and follow Him. You may not come into the Church (although that would be my hope); but you will be led into salvation and truth as long as you accept nothing less than Him.

    I also pray that nothing I have said acts as a block, for I am truly the least here.

  38. Dionysio says:

    Michael-

    Great post! By the method you define syncretism then I am am in error on my previous posts as I am definitely not a syncretist in this regard. You did a much better job then my friend in helping me…LOL. (he reads this)

    I push the envelope and assume I am communicating properly when in fact I was not- in this case. Thank you for investing your time in me. I hope you found benefit if nothing more then helping me.

    So here I go again at risk of being publicly ignorant. Is it possible that secularism is part of the Secret Hand of God? My “new age” friends love this discussion but not sure this forum will…I simply don’t know as I find the vocabulary itself in Orthodioxy prevents good communication. (Not a criticism but because I simply don’t understand it).

    My hope is that we help each other find Truth and we stay present until the gift is received. In this case I understand I may be the only beneficiary so I thank all those who tolerate me in advance!:-)

  39. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio,

    Expression of ignorance is the fruit of real knowledge. That doesn’t mean that all questions will or can be answered.

    I was visiting at an Orthodox Church near Denver, Co this weekend. In talking with the deacon after Liturgy, I mentioned that I was concerned for my wife’s family as they are thoroughly immersed in the secular and seem quite happy with it. God does not seem to impinge on them in any way.

    The deacon told me that people who live that way sooner or later are in a situation where they are forced to acknowledge the possibility of God (at the least).

    One cannot live life really without God. Trying to do that will ultimately fail. God will still be there. Whether or not that person actually opens up to Him, wellllllll, that’s the rest of the story.

    As Met. Hilarion points out in his book, “The Mystery of Faith” Both the call of God and our response to it is unique for each person (although certain general things can be said about it).

    That might be a good book for both you and your friend to read BTW.

    That’s the long way ’round the barn to say that we can only recognize the secret hand of God in our own lives (maybe) after a great deal of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, worship, repentance and forgiveness, in other words, by living the life of the Church in faith. It is impossible, IMO, for most folks to recognize that hand in someone else’s life or for the culture at large (except for a few God pleasing elders most of whom tend to be rather unobtrusive themselves).

    Now, as to your comment on your “new age” friends: I came to adulthood in the new age culture of the 60’s (God forgive me my participation in it). The syncretistic group from which I came had its roots in that culture as well. For those who are seeking authentic experience with real transcendence, such stuff can be very enticing in light of the horrible job of communicating genuine Christian faith that is usually done.

    I can tell you flat out however, it is all lies and delusion at best. There is a great deal which is fully and intentionally demonic. Take a peak at some of the early chapters of “Everyday Saints” for a clear example.

    The best of it is still a lie because it is taken entirely out of context and presented as an end in itself rather than flowing from a communion with the living God.

    The spiritual practice of the Orthodox Church is real, deep and inexhaustible but you don’t enter into it without obedience and ascetic labor which begins with stop trying to figure out how everything works and how energy moves and who we can control it. The Christ of the new age is a false Christ.

    There is more of God’s divine energy, more real healing possible during a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the poorest, worst attended, most nominal Orthodox Church served by the worst priest imaginable than in any new ager’s highest dream. It just takes real humility to receive it and rejoice in it.

    The first steps a person takes in Baptism in the Orthodox Church is to reject Satan and all his works (3 times), and spit upon him. Next the person declares their intent to be unified with Christ (3 times). The whole life of the Church that follows including the cleansing in Baptism, the anointing with Holy Chrism and the “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” is a continual working out of those two separate intentions within the embrace of our loving God.

    There is no more fruitful way of life, even done poorly, than life in the Orthodox Church as a lover of God.

    Shameless plug: All Orthodox books mentioned here or anywhere are available through Eighth Day Books. A store run by a good friend of mine as both a business and an Orthodox Christian ministry. They will find you pretty much any book you want if it is anywhere available. He also stocks Roman Catholic books and a smattering of other Christian expressions as well as high quality literature both modern and ancient.

    No money spent there will go to promote and support the nihilism of our culture which cannot be said for Amazon. It will go to support genuine Christian faith and witness in all of its dimensions.

  40. Dionysio says:

    Michael-

    Volumes could be written on the suffering of mankind due to words, not intent and due to attachments, not essence.

    I have new age friends, orthodox friends, catholic friends, rugged Individualists fiends, athiest friends etc. I find I do not listen to these folks to incorporate their truths into mine as some sort of syncretic pursuit. I have these friends and am tolerant of their views not because I buy into them, but because acceptance of where they are is pragmatic. If I don’t accept them, then I find I am not loving them. I do not try to change them as that would be my version of truth to be declared triumphant, which I think is as dangerous as anything mentioned here.

    What I do try to do is take my revelations of the divine and see how it is reflected in them. This is quite opposite I think from syncretism as I now understand it from your gracious education.

    My use of the phrase “new age” is like somebody using the word Christian to be inclusive of Orthodox. My new age friends are nothing like what is described in the “Everyday Saints” reference. I have read the works of Blavasky, who is more along the lines of what is described in the Everday Saints beginnings then any mainstream view of new age.

    My new age friends are squarely on the path where their intent is the uncovering of their true selves. They wish to wash away their ego and in doing so, they submit themselves to a higher power. They recognize our interdependence and try to live their lives in peaceful abundance, giving back to the earth more than they take from it. Some of my new age friends in this regard, are seemingly more at peace and closer to God than I may ever be. It’s wonderful to see the reflection of the divine within them. It’s also wonderful to me to see how these folks and Orthodoxy pursue similar paths. I like the idea of people discovering that truth has been here all along. I don’t care if they find Orthodoxy as long as they find Truth. I do believe more and more Orthodoxy has been the protector of original truth, but it is not its author.

    I use the phrase “New Age”. Again, in hindsight, I wish I could be more diligent, but unfortunately I don’t know what filters will be used ahead of time. So instead of a lengthy preface to all discussions, which would take volumes of words and an endless explanation of those words too, I simply hope we can have a pleasant discussion to further truths and help each other. For example, it appears I was in error of my use of the word syncretism. I received what I view as three levels of communication back to me. One, Fr. Stephen appeared to try to meet me where he believed I was and offered a compassionate counterpoint. Two, you wrote me in compassion offering your experience but categorically labeled it as full of lies.( based on your experience) Three, Sergieyes took this progression a step further and declared “syncretism kills” and portrayed it in a way that his statement was inclusive of yours and Fr. Stephens view.

    So assume I really believed in the virtue of syncretism. If I continued this progression (or breakdown of compassion), I may declare “Sergieyes called me a murderer”. This is the typical conversation in the US where we value the debate, not each other.

    By virtue of the extremism itself, I knew something was amiss. I suspect Fr Stephen did too as he checked out of the discussion and perhaps made reference to why in his new post. You (Michael) engaged because you had emotional history within this subject giving you personal knowledge to help me. (Which I was and am grateful). Sergieyes checked out, I suspect, because he admittedly gave his authority to you.

    My friend is most like Sergieyes but on certain subjects will be like you were and on rare occasions will be like Fr. Stephen. Me? For whatever reason, I am the guy that creates this vicious cycle which opens up both the dialogue and exposes the misgivings in the dialogue. I truly wish it didn’t have to be so painful. Nonetheless, I ask these questions because I am on a path of awakening. I find it is both an esoteric as well as exoteric exercise. Right or wrong, it is these very painful disconnects which provide the surest and shortest path to revelation.(for me)

    What I find is that unless we can read each other’s minds, invariably all progress depends on overcoming these painful encounters- not as a means toward syncretism, but as a means of finding each others truth and seeing how that truth is a reflection of the divine, discussing how that truth may be a manifestation of the divine intention and speculating how how the secret hand of God is at work with both the disconnects as well as the reconciliation.

    On this regard, right or wrong, I am inclusive of the whole world and see divinity in everything as to me, its seems by definition that divinity is “Everywhere Present” as we all came from the same source physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually but manmade ailments cover up our physical, intellectual and emotional beings and therefore, spiritual beings. I see sin in within the context of “missing the mark” but not as “evil” or worthy of a vengeful God who dishes out punishment. Instead, all sin is inevitable as we have fallen and that fall is passed down from generation to generation, manifesting itself in many unusual ways. I see Orthodoxy, certain New Age movements and Modern Transcendental Psychology, for example, as means why which we uncover our authentic being and heal from our original sin. I see the secular movement as an inevitable process of us being separated with the side benefit of material advances and feel that we should discuss whether or not material advances are part of the secret plan. Again, if it is not, then why does it exist?

    I am squarely not trying to build a bottom up staircase to God but more so, examining the reflection of God on earth, living in the now, to affirm in my own heart of hearts, what role do I play? How can I best serve? Is my ego infront of me or behind me?

    What I find is that the more I understand this reflection of God in all and the reflection of all in me, I find my path home. As you said Michael and via your reference to The Mystery of Faith” writings. “Both the call of God and our response to it is unique for each person”.

    I know based on neuroscience and new discoveries in psychology that finding that unique path is dependent on relationships with others which is necessary to see the relationship we have within ourselves. We depend on each other and many times, I wonder if the labels and organizational hierarchies are not themselves, the true heresy of our existence. I will end this long post with a quote from Osho, a Hindu Guru.

    “Religions have failed, politics have failed, ideologies have failed…and they were very clear-cut, they were blueprints for the future of man. They have all failed. It was inevitable, because they were all structure oriented, and every kind of structure becomes heavy on the heart of man, sooner or later. Every structure becomes a prison, and one day or another you have to rebel against it.

    The greatest art is to attain a balance, a balance between all opposites, a balance between all polarities. Imbalance is the disease and balance is health. Imbalance is neurosis, and balance is well-being.”

    Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.”

    Osho

    PS. Fr. Stephen- I sometimes find that the silence of God is best heard after a storm. :-)

  41. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio, There is no such thing, IMO, as abstract truth. Truth is the Incarnate Lord, Jesus Christ. Anything that is not of Christ or presents a false Christ is untruth. He is the way, the truth and the life. Only by Him can you come to the Father.

    I speak the way I do about the new age because I have repeatedly seen the spiritual damage such stuff does to people. That is not theoretical. I reject the philosophies not the people. Dealing with specific people in specific instances is a pastoral question. Pastoral questions cannot be appropriately handled except in the most general terms on a forum such as this.

    However, if you had a really good friend who started taking drugs and was acting in a self-destructive manner would you not try to intervene? If that friend continued in such willful self-destruction and wanted you to start taking drugs too, would you continue to hang around with that person?

    Sooner or later, the ‘only’ statements in Christianity have to be faced. Sooner or later there will be a reckoning. It is not for us to determine who is a sheep and who is a goat. It is for us to witness to the truth of Jesus Christ in love and joy.

    There is nothing but darkness, despair and destruction apart from Jesus Christ. The nihilist spirit of our age manifests in many many ways; often in seductive and attractive ways. It is a siren song. The path to salvation is a narrow strip of sea between Scylla and Charybdis.

    Two books I would recommend: “Everyday Saints” (mentioned previously) and “The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisios”

  42. Michael Bauman says:

    “Religions have failed, politics have failed, ideologies have failed…and they were very clear-cut, they were blueprints for the future of man. They have all failed. It was inevitable, because they were all structure oriented, and every kind of structure becomes heavy on the heart of man, sooner or later. Every structure becomes a prison, and one day or another you have to rebel against it.”

    This is simply untrue. Back to the egalitarian nonsense you said you don’t believe. The rebellious spirit is not of God.

    We are called to be members of the Body of Christ, even with all of the sin currently infecting it just by my presence.

    Without structure, we are fair game for the seduction of the masters of lies. Without structure, we can not even stand up or move or think or communicate.

    Human beings are not autonomous beings. We are creatures of God called to community in Him so that we may live in His Kingdom as full and complete persons. Structure is a necessary and integral part of life. We were created by God, in part, to bring order to His creation–structure. It is part of who we are and what we are supposed to do. Adam and Eve ignored structure and rebelled in the Garden and look what has happened.

    The works of men fail because they are products of our own fallen will and are not of God. They attempt to substitute our own will for the will of God–just as this guru is doing.

    His ideas are toxic to the soul.

  43. Dionysio says:

    Michael-

    1. We cannot know God so isn’t capital T-Truth abstract by definition?
    2. If someone knows Christ in their hearts but aren’t aware of it (because where they were born for example) are they prohibited from salvation?
    3. I would still hang out with that person taking drugs. They have no influence on me as long as I am present. Aren’t we all called to love our neighbor in this regard?
    4. Every structure of man has failed…this is a historical fact. This should not be confused with the structure of God- which we can’t comprehend. The author of The Mystery of Faith engages in interfaith dialogues and Alfeyev said: “The Orthodox Church as a whole does not have a unified structural or administrative format. “. So perhaps we are having two different discussions?
    5. Nihlism can be argued to be on the Same path as Emptiness in Buddhism which is awfully close the The Presence In Absence as posted by Fr. Stephen. IMO- because I like to see the continuums of thought…in understanding Nihilism, I better understand God. While, as it is defined within itself, is a arguably a dangerous path and inaccurate by new findings in moral foundation theory, the other side of that path could bring a person to God’s doorstep. I would not choose that path, but who are we to judge?
    6. It may be more accurate to say we are not necessarily “substituting” our will for God’s will…we are of nature and nature is of God. Therefore we cannot fathom the “Godconscious” within so the secret hand may be played out in ways inconceivable to us. Metaphorically like how the cicada hibernates for 17 years. How awe-inspiring is this? Is it nor possible that we are too in hibernation, unknown to our own conscious abilities? This is neither egalitarian nor rebellious but perhaps natural or dare I say again..the secret hand of God? isnt it equally valid to suggest Adam and Eve did not conceive of or contemplate structure until after they fell?
    7. Respectfully, Are not your comments precisely determining who is a sheep and who is a goat?

    I think Osho’s ideas are very simple reflection of our material being and have nothing to do with the soul….except that in recognizing we must rebel against our man-made structure as a means to find our soul.

    I am sorry if I upset you Michael. I simply don’t see conflict anywhere. I neither think that makes me a syncretist a or a heretic nor an egalitarian. It may not allow me to enter Othodoxy per your claims. I don’t know..that is why I am asking questions.

    Bishop Hilarion himself participates in interfaith dialogue as he sits on the Board of World Religious Leaders. Is he wrong to do so? Would he say the same thing about these non-orthodox comments ?

  44. Dino says:

    Dionysio and Michael,
    after quickly browsing your discussion above, let me to point out one point:
    irrespective of God’s ability to draw people towards Him through the most unlikely paths (which might make ‘syncretism’ seem somewhat valid), Satan also works with all that is available to him. So, the fact remains that delusion exists everywhere. However, authentic discernment of spirits is only to be found within Orthodoxy… (and with a somewhat limited frequency even there). If we must be constantly watchful living the thoroughly tried and tested path of Orthodoxy, is it not natural that outside of this path delusion is more than likely?

  45. Dionysio says:

    Dino-

    You said “authentic discernment of spirits is only to be found within Orthodoxy”.

    If this is true then I agree with you. As a non-orthodox I do not have enough basis to determine for myself whether it not this is true.

    If you can point me in a direction to understand this better I would appreciate it. Thanks!

  46. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio, I am not upset at you. I am a blunt person especially when I have seen people I care for damaged to the point of suicide by the ideas you seem so infatuated with. I am an absolutist. Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Jesus Christ Incarnate, Crucified and resurrected seated at the right hand of the Father. Everything we need to know is in that reality. The tried and true path to enter into that reality is contained in the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner;” and participation in the sacraments of the Church, but you have to enter the Church first.

    When does helping someone become enabling them in their sin and self-destruction? That is a pastoral decision but a reality that must be guarded against. Jesus certainly communicated with those beyond the pale but He did not share their life, he called them to share in His. If they did not follow Him, He did not continue to ‘dialog’ and ‘reason’ with them.

    Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences. Playing with bad ideas is dangerous. However such experimentation is inevitable for people with a vibrant curiosity. You may avoid the bad consequences, I surely hope you do. God can and will heal you if you turn to Him afterword (the story of the Gurus, The Young Man and Elder Paisios) Those who do not turn to Him will suffer the consequences. Who those people are I have no knowledge of, nor do I pretend to.

    I am not the Church, so please, if anything I say keeps you away, disregard it. It is of no importance and of no value.

    Nothing allows you to understand God except communion with God Himself. Anything else can easily become an idol. Goodness knows I have many in my life and by His grace have rid myself of some.

    I am not a fan of inter-faith dialog. The fruits of it have not been particularly positive, IMO. They usually and quickly descend to the lowest common denominator and end up trashing pretty much everything of value. Certainly that has been the course of the WCC and the NCC.

    In today’s world, there is a limited place for it to facilitate working together on common interests. But, that’s my opinion. Met. Hilarion is a bishop under obedience to his Patriarch. I can only trust in God to achieve the results He wants. Still, I and many others will not sit quietly if such dialog attempts to give away the store in order to achieve specious and false ‘union’ or compromises the integrity and teaching of the Church.

    I have seen no sign of that happening. In fact Met. Hilarion has come out on several occasions and chastised other religious bodies for their apostasy and broken off further dialog because of that.

    The Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ; the fullness of the Truth. If you want that, come, taste and see. You will be welcome. You will be challenged, healed and transformed as you submit yourself to the love of Christ in His Church. I would be honored to bear your burdens as you will bear mine–in Christ. There is nothing else to compare to the grace, freedom and joy in the Church.

    Everything else outside the Church (and I have looked widely in my life) is a descending fullness that gradually leaves the truth entirely behind and ends in the pit of despair, darkness and death. If your way is to meander through that forest much as I did you will get through it as long as Jesus Christ is whom you wish to know. But, you may not have to do that. There is much to be said for entering the Church in faith and relative purity of heart not having been sullied by as much.

    May God bless and guide you, may He watch over you and the power of the life-giving Cross, the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos and the protection of St. Michael be with you.

  47. fatherstephen says:

    Michael and Dionysio,
    In our cultural setting (particularly among younger people), it is inevitable that we have friends and acquaintances all across the multi-cultural fruited plain. Unless someone is very active in a parish and limits their lives to that setting, then they’ll be engaged with non-Orthodox. God clearly works wherever He will, and is always at work for our salvation. He also makes “all things work together for good.” But that is because He is a good God and not because all things work from within themselves towards the good. His redemption is in spite of all things.

    Syncretism, at its root, is simply an effort to hold oneself above everything. Who chooses what is good and bad and who makes the preferred combinations? Various forms of syncretism, even mixed-bagged-do-it-yourself-Christian-lifestyles, are all just part of the consumer culture. We’re shopping for life’s meaning, working on a God we’ll like.

    Orthodoxy is an authentic Tradition. Unlike various consumer choices, it is a life into which we are immersed. I can’t combine other things with it, because I would have to step outside of it in order to do so. I’m not above Orthodoxy, or I certainly don’t want to be.

    Orthodoxy always engages in conversation “inter-faith” etc. St. Justin Martyr’s Apologia was such a dialog. We must speak with the world else we would have to leave it. But we can only speak authentically from within Orthodoxy, and speak of Orthodoxy. We cannot step outside of it, meet with others on some neutral ground, and discuss and compare our differences. There is no such ground (other than the false ground of secularism). The culture wants us to stand on such “neutral” ground, because to do so is to agree that the culture itself is pre-eminent and it is our faith that is relative. Secular culture doesn’t care one whit about what you believe, so long as you believe it as a secularist.

    Just some thoughts…

  48. Michael Bauman says:

    Father as usual you cut to the heart with much more simplicity than I can muster.

    The issue is not friends or socializing it is that some ideas and modes of thought are not healthy. We all have those areas. However it is axiomatic that the more time we spend in unhealthy environments the more apt we are to become unhealthy unless we have a strong foundation in what is healthy.

  49. Dionysio says:

    Yes Michael, I agree. In Buddhism, that is the path of a Bodisattva. (Breathing in suffering while in the midst of suffering to bring healing to all sentient beings)

    For the record, I am not infatuated with ANY of these ideas. However, I do believe I have tasted Theosis. To an Orthodox Absolutist this would be impossible without the Orthodox church. So my concern is trying to balance what appears to be a beautiful authenetic Tradition from what also appears to be an exclusionary culture.

    BTW- my wife was an addict and tried suicide in her addiction to pharmaceutical “medicine” which would not have occurred without secular influence. So I have alot of experience too, but my experience was profoundly different from yours.

    Thank You Father and Thank You Michael. I will try my best to learn from these discussions as I know with certainty I am still missing something.

  50. Boyd says:

    On the no-neutral-ground idea–reminds me of a similar argument made by Anglican Bishop Lesslie Newbigin. I think it was in his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society but it may have been another one.

  51. Michael Bauman says:

    Dionysio, I’ve been thinking about your statement concerning Theosis. Where there is no sacrament and no ascesis directed toward Jesus Christ, it is highly unlikely. There is only one way to the Father.

    I have certainly tasted of the presence of God, but Theosis is a whole different thing.

    There is certainly truth that appears outside the Church, but my experience has taught me that whatever is outside is more full, complete and real inside. “What is deep, I’ll have deeply, what is good, I’ll have well”

    Why mess with the shadow when the real deal is at hand?

  52. Dionysio says:

    Michael-

    To answer your question, “Why mess with the shadow when the real deal is at hand?” The best answer I can give is “I don’t know”.

    Obviously my answer begs more reflection so Thank You for the inspiration! As I have reflected since your post, I suspect a better answer comes from the very quote you introduced me to by Met. Hilarion;”Both the call of God and our response to it is unique for each person”

    Orthodox is a word, but it is not its essence unto itself. It may be that I am more Orthodox in essence then by the label. It may be that since I am a “Recovering Catholic” that I am inauthentically resisting the best path. I don’t know.

    What my head tells me is that Orthodox is the protector of truth but like I said before, its not its author. The Church may be where we find an unbroken continuity handed down from Christ. However, what my heart tells me is that if the Church is the living body of Jesus Christ then I must confess that I believe the Church is everywhere. So I resist perhaps, because my revelation tells me a non-duality exists in this regard that I am called to participate in. Am I right? I don’t know.

    I find we all live in multiple dualities and non-dualities at the same time. For example, on one hand, we can claim that we don’t reject the person but we disagree with a person’s belief. On the other hand, to the ego mind and we all have egos, if we reject a person’s belief we are in some way rejecting the person – real or perceived. The difference of this rejection/non-rejection duality depends on our own state of purity AS WELL AS the state of purity of the person being accepted or rejected. And there is where a paradox is revealed. We can never be sure of our own purity. We definitely can’t judge the purity of another. What we do know though is that the moment we believe we are pure is most likely the moment that ego is reeling its ugly head.

    For example, a person may value being “blunt”. The blunt response “you are wrong” is a very difficult energy to receive for the person that feels they are right. This feeling of rejection may have zero to do with the other’s intention or even one’s heart, but the end result is a feeling of rejection to someone who is currently defining themselves by their ego. So if the sender is consciously aware of this, is the sender truly living in Christ when being blunt? I don’t know.

    So we strive to be humble. In my experience then, the ultimate form of humbleness is the seamless acceptance of all beings AND their beliefs.
    So instead of combat against someone’s truth, or even mild disagreement, I refuse all forms of rejection and instead favor trying to understand how another’s truth is a reflection of the divine. Is this the right path? I don’t know.

    I find when I miss the mark and don’t find resonance or communion with another, it is precisely these moments where a bigger picture of the divine is revealed to me over and over again. To that end, my personal path to God is a form of asceticism as the discomfort I find outside of what otherwise may be alot of people like me, is exactly the discomfort I need to help me define me.

    As I practice this existence, I have found life to become easier and easier. My compassion grows and grows. I find I am expanding what I may call my own internal “Godconsciousness” as each painful engagement simplifies my existence and lessons the pain of the next manmade ping pong match.(I find ALL emotional disagreements are nothing more than manmade ping pong matches, not love.) Our ego mind love to play ping pong! And when the ping pong match heats up, this our opportunity to find our Godconscious within. At least that is my experience and whether or not this is true for everyone, I don’t know.

    In this regard, I find the Church itself is everywhere present because God is everywhere present as well. This allows me to consider everyone is already Orthodox whether or not they know it doesn’t matter in the moment. Is this heresy? I don’t know.

    While I believe my revelation is a result of Theosis and even though you bluntly doubt it occurrence, I am fine with both my belief and yours. I am not attached to that idea as the idea is meaningless compared to the actual experience.

    In this regard the labels of any other “ism” or “ology” becomes less meaningful and perhaps not existent for me. I AM existing in love with the world.

    While the Orthodoxy may be the path to God preserved in revelation and tradition, I would be remiss to simply believe blindly it is my path…at least for today…tomorrow may very well be different. In my “I don’t know” admission, I like to ask alot of questions and try to even find the questions that aren’t usually asked.

    In my authenticity I find discernment as a seeker. I have zero fear of being on the wrong path as long as I never believe I am on the right path.

    I am in love with the world and all it’s forms good and bad or ugly, right or wrong – not as a form of tolerance but as a form if ultimate acceptance as it was revealed to me in my experience.

    This is my favorite poem I wrote one day after deeply feeling the essence of what I am trying to intellectually describe. I find art is closer to essence even if its a pale shadow of the real deal…

    —Somewhere InBetween —

    Beware the claim of righteousness for that is not a pure state of mind

    It’s defined by men in unconsciousness who fear the undefined

    Somewhere inbetween is the path less traveled

    Somewhere inbetween is the mystery unraveled

    Somewhere inbetween all light will shine

    Somewhere inbetween your God is mine.

  53. Dino says:

    You make sense Dionysio, (even though you might be using terms [Theosis] in a different sense to what Orthodox tradition does) but there seems to be more sense in the Saints that back their word with first-hand experience.
    I say this mainly because there does exist a general/hazy knowledge of God, (“delusion-free” when it is humble) but that is not the end of it! How do you walk further (much much further) along an unknown and dangerous path without the guidance of a sat/nav?
    Considering that we do not so much “all live in multiple dualities and non-dualities at the same time”, but “all think in multiple dualities”, the value of Orthodoxy as ‘living’ is far more than its value as ‘thinking’.
    I cannot trust my reasoning faculty alone -that would make me a Protestant of sorts. Outside of any verifiable tradition. As a rule, Human Reasoning in any form separates from God since (as Saint Damascene says) “God is unknowable and the only thing knowable through human reason is His unknowability”.
    Orthodoxy’s ‘rules’ are there (as St Mark the ascetic says) to guard the terms of the freedom we have been granted, as outside of these it is compromised.
    St Theognostos in the Philokalia gives another route to delusion-free knowledge: “If you wish to be granted a mental vision of the divine you must first embrace a peaceful and quiet way of life, and devote your efforts to aquiring a knowledge of both yourself and God. If you do this and achieve a pure state untroubled by any passion, there is nothing to prevent your intellect from perceiving, as it were in a light breeze (cf 1 Kings 19:12) Him who is invisible to all; and He will bring you good tidings of salvation through a yet clearer knowledge of Himself.”

    There is a great deal of merit in what you are saying, but I would love to see it in a context of verifiable truth, and I only know one such context with a “-doxy”

    :-)

  54. Michael Bauman says:

    Dino & Dionysio. I agree. I would put it this way: as Jesus Christ incarnated in a discreet and unique identifiable body so His Church has a discreet and identifiable form. He pours His grace into the Church in such abundance that it over flows.

    The is also a difference in contending for some one, challenging them to go higher and deeper and contending against them. I try to do the former.

    Dionysio, you also must allow for the fact that I am a recovering new ager who was bathed in practically every major heresy the Church has recognized. Calvinism I missed but that’s about it.

    I try not to condemn anyone and to always offer the rest of the story but some things are nothing but anathema to me, maybe because I got drunk on them maybe because they really are poison. While each person’s way to Christ is unique, not all paths lead to Him.

    Those who have known nothing but the Church are greatly blessed.

  55. Dionysio says:

    Michael and Dino-

    “Not all who wander are lost and not all who are lost wander”

    That being said, I just got “The Mystery of Faith” delivered to my doorstep. So I will have to get back to you later. Thank you for your input.

    D

  56. Jeff says:

    Father, I’m seeing new churches like Brian Zhand , come along with understanding liturgy and Eucharist , seems many in orthodoxy make friends of those interested ( yet respecting most intimate sacraments ), have you ideas on this for the future ?, tho I’m catholic (and had orthodox grandparents ( Ukrainian ), I really love the approach of bishops up here in abbotsford , Canada , …,

  57. fatherstephen says:

    Jeff,
    I wish them well.

  58. Grant on August 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm – very well said indeed.

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