It was remarked briefly in a recent comment that “we cannot know God completely,” and that we should be satisfied with the mysteries of the faith and trust the teaching of the Church (I apologize for using the writer’s honest statement as the point of departure for this post). However, this short quote from St. Silouan:
It is given to our Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit to fathom the mysteries of God, and she is strong in the holiness of her thought and her patience.
The mysteries of the Faith give to us, not some other grace (Baptismal grace, etc.) but grace that is the very Life of God. What we know in Baptism is God. The same is true of all the mysteries. The same is true of everything we see in the life of the Church – and if we have ears to hear – it is true of every action in every moment of our lives.
If we can only love a God who is perceived through some third-party mediation as an idea, then this is not love of God. I must not love God as an idea or even seek to know Him in such a manner. An idea of God is truly and dangerously an idol. By comparison, the Holy Icons we venerate make known to us the true God. But an idea – those vague and even idiosyncratic notions – are not glimpses of God at all.
We must hunger for God Himself, never anything less. This is why we must know our ignorance. We must not be satisfied with knowledge that is not knowledge. Only true knowledge of God should and can satisfy the true longings of our heart. We who once walked in the cool of the evening with God should not settle for something less (I know the imagery is just that- imagery – but it points to the nature of true knowledge).
Thus we may have unlettered peasants such as St. Silouan who know God – but thank goodness they did not settle for something less. It may eat us and consume us (this hunger for God) but we dare not settle for less or the entire purpose of our life will have been wasted.
Nothing less than God.
As Fr. Hopko says, “You cannot know God, but you have to know Him to know that.” This is the mystery of God in his essence and His energies. We cannot know Him and yet we can know Him. Of course, most of us do not know God – or if we do know Him we only barely know Him. But why settle for anything other than more of this? God became man and united Himself to our flesh that we might know Him. St. Paul cried out for nothing less and would have given everything up for the excellency of knowing Christ.
Indeed, we are told in prophecy: “And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,‘ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).