The Boundaries We Draw and the Boundaries God Draws

I pushed the envelope a little in my last post, intentionally pressing against what I understand to be false boundaries created by an inadequate understanding of Scripture and a view of the world that establishes limits at places they need not be.

I am not an enemy of boundaries – indeed – without them we would not exist – at least not as Persons. Even though the Orthodox faith speaks of union with God, it does not do so in a way in which the Person ceases to exist as Person or in which the distinction between God and His creation ceases to exist. Even within the Trinity itself a distinction is maintained between the Persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I have written elsewhere of the importance for boundaries in revealing things to us. Without certain boundaries we cannot see what lies before us. Boundaries not only create distinctions, they also create the possibility of knowledge.

It is in the light of Pascha and its transcendant joy that I could not refrain from pushing at boundaries that have been shattered. These are the boundaries that make it impossible for us to see – whether it is the depths of revelation given to us in the Scriptures, or the wonder of the Kingdom of God breaking into our world and transforming it into paradise.

The transformations that occur, both within us and within the world, are more than a shift in our own subjectivity. They are as real as the empty tomb, even though our eyes are sometimes withheld from the glory that stands before us.

I have always marveled at the verse in St. Matthew’s last chapter in which he says:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted (Matthew 28:16-17).

It is a remarkable statement in one way. How is it that seeing the risen Christ, some doubted? It says something about the nature of the human heart (“blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”) but it also says something about the risen Christ. “Seeing” Him is not simply an act of observation: He is not an inert object like a pebble. Rather, seeing Him is itself an act of relationship, in which love and faith are an inherent part. God is not forcing Himself on us. He gives Himself to us freely – but we may refuse the gift. That doesn’t make the gift go away – it only hardens our heart and creates within our vision a false perception of God and the world.

Christ’s holy Pascha has forever changed the world and that change continues apace. That I do not always see it is a confession of the state of my heart. That the world does not always see it is a cause for prayer and tears. That the gift is never withdrawn is an assurance of the steadfast love of God. It is such love that carried Him to the depths of Hades for us in the first place and it is such love that could not be contained in such a place of delusion. Christ is risen!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





4 responses to “The Boundaries We Draw and the Boundaries God Draws”

  1. Ksenia Avatar

    It reminds me of what Elder Nektary said to young Oleg, who later became Bishop Nektary, about nothing being understood or communicated without limit and measure. Oleg was studying engineering at the time, and I did not understand it, as it seemed like a mystery to me, given in terms of math. I will try to find the quote again. It is in the Elder Nectary biography published by St. Herman’s press. Probably it is in the chapter devoted to Oleg’s youth spent at Optina Monastery. This that you wrote is more in my language, so thank you. Perhaps the elder did not intend his analogy to apply to this subject, but he often searched through literature and science to express this subject which is not describable directly by human language. He said in our time artists would try to express it in their art.

  2. Isaac the Syrian Avatar
    Isaac the Syrian

    Indeed he is risen!

    I found the last post literally refreshing.

  3. Дејан Avatar

    “Rather, seeing Him is itself an act of relationship, in which love and faith are an inherent part.”

    How beautifully said! Which reminds me of something St. Nikolai said in Prayers by the Lake:

    You have filled the entire universe with tongues, which are flames when they lift up praise to You and water — when they whisper Your praises to themselves.

    St. Nikolai Velimirovich

  4. Andrew Avatar

    Very well said Дејан…

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  1. Greetings, Father Stephen, Thank you so much for this reflection and all of the tremendous amount of work you have…

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