Augustinian Surprises

copy-of-101_0508rockiesGod is He Whom we know best in not knowing Him. – St. Augustine

It is He about Whom we have no knowledge unless it be to know how we do not know Him. – St. Augustine

Both quotes are from De ordine.

Fr. Thomas Hopko is fond of saying that “We cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that.” This statement, like those of St. Augustine’s, tease our minds towards higher considerations – particularly in a world that markets God as though he were a candy-bar. The recent spate of bus ads in London are an excellent example. Atheists ran ads suggesting that there “probably is no God” and suggested that people not waste their time. Christians countered with ads that there “probably is only one God – ours – join us!”

Of course some of this is just a sad commentary on modern culture. But it is seems to me that if God ceases to be a mystery then humanity stands no chance. The holy Tradition of the faith teaches us not only that God is a mystery – that all of our dogmatic statements cannot “capture” Him – but also that man is a mystery – “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And the two are connected. Man is a mystery because he is person, created in the image of God.

The great tragedies of the 20th century occurred when various regimes made man to be less than mystery. The material man of Marxism lost all value other than as a tool of productivity. The land that gave the world some of its greatest poets gave its imagination over to the mind of a madman.

Hitler’s reduction of man to “uebermensch” and others to less than human defined man primarily with the image of power. Instead of producing a race of Gods he produced shame in the most educated nation on earth. In all, the 20th century proved Dostoevsky to have been prophetic: “If there is no God, all is permitted.”

There are various ways that modern entities seek to redefine the human. For some we are consumers, objects of manipulation by carefully crafted marketing. For others we are infinitely malleable, not only able “to be all we can be,” but able to be anything we want – whether that includes a different gender or even the features of a wild beast (body sculpting and implants).

Only if we approach man with Biblical fear and wonder will we hold him with proper respect. The human aspect of personhood holds a transcendent quality – an ability to extend itself beyond itself – an ability to love. This is true of the least of our brethren.

But such wonders will remain opaque to the modern eye if the wonder of God does not accompany it. Human imagination, itself a powerful force, will never manage to imagine the wonder of man unless it first is seized by the wonder of God.

Thus we have the Orthodox tradition of “apophaticism,” of learning to know by “not knowing.” It is a theological and spiritual discipline that says “no” to our own limited understanding in order to say “yes” to a revelation that would carry us beyond understanding. Augustine’s statements (which came as a small surprise to me) stand within this spiritual tradition. Time has refined the practice of “not knowing,” presenting it today as a means of sharing in the life of salvation – a strange phenomenon in a world that knows too much.

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.



34 responses to “Augustinian Surprises”

  1. Joseph Hromy Avatar
    Joseph Hromy

    Father do you think the reason the west fell away and was shattered was because of their rejection of apophaticisim?

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    Not that alone. Such historic problems are always complicated. Even Orthodoxy did not begin to really recover apophaticism (apart from some monastics) until the 20th century. The tradition lived on in places, but the dominance of the West suppressed much of Orthodox thought.

    Lossky and others must be credited with its resurgence, along with a great renewal in Orthodox monasticism.

  3. Katia Avatar

    Father bless,

    Well said, it reminds me, of a small, but brilliant book called The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, i will cite the final paragraph:

    “But you can not go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You can not go on ‘seeing through’ things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”

  4. Margaret Avatar

    The Orthodox tradition of “apophaticism,” of learning to know by “not knowing,” has been a great comfort to me since coming to Orthodoxy 3 years ago, and continues to open up to me more of Christian life and how to live it in this world. Praise be to God! Thank you, Fr. Stephen.

  5. Dean Arnold Avatar
    Dean Arnold

    [quote]”The holy Tradition of the faith teaches us not only that God is a mystery – that all of our dogmatic statements cannot “capture” Him – but also that man is a mystery – “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And the two are connected. Man is a mystery because he is person, created in the image of God.”[/quote]

    An early and perhaps my greatest encounter with God was through a small group of college guys: we started loving each other and becoming rather enchanted with each person’s incredible uniqueness.

    Somehow, we broke out of the streamlining view of humanity and encountered real persons. And in that process we found God as well.

    A couple of us are now Orthodox. God was real and present during that phase of our lives and we’re not even sure how we did it.

  6. Handmaid Anna Avatar
    Handmaid Anna

    Atheists seem to reject the truth that they actually need God. If He doesn’t exist than he’s not needed. It takes great humility to accept the fact that we need God and others and great humility to have that love for Him and others in all, not just some, circumstances.

  7. Andrew Kern Avatar

    As another recent convert, I also cherish the apophatic teachings – perhaps because the limits of our knowledge are so obvious.

    As an educator I was struck by your description of the 20th century regimes that reduced humanity to an object (at best). The philosophy of our schools seems to align perfectly with those traditions, reducing man to an economic unit, a bundle of passions and appetites, or, maybe, if we’re lucky, a citizen.

    I like your ideas better, especially as Dean Arnold exemplified it: “Personhood”!

    Thank you for bringing us into our true Life.

  8. Alice C. Linsley Avatar
    Alice C. Linsley

    Father, this is rich food. Thanks.

    I’m amazed by the gems found in St. Augustine. He wrote a good deal on divine illumination also, but the Latin Church and western tradition tend to overlook that. An excellent essay on this can be found here:

  9. Eric John (PNW) Avatar
    Eric John (PNW)

    St. Hilary of Poitiers, France (the Gaul) (c. 358 A.D.), said, in like refrain:[T]he proper service of faith is to grasp and confess the truth that it is incompetent to comprehend its Object.

    -St. Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book II

  10. Eric John (PNW) Avatar
    Eric John (PNW)

    sorry, meant to say “then Gaul” in the parenthetical.

  11. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    I tend to think we all want to be mysterious enough to be inviting and worth getting to know.

    I also think it a lie that any of us can be dismissed as though we are already known; we don’t really know much about ourselves and others. Our worth and depth can only be measured by God’s own life who holds us close as His own!

    In its fixation on few aspects of humanity’s unfathomable nature, our culture readily admits that persons are mysterious. Victoria, for example, will always have a secret.

    That God seems clouded in mystery should not repel us. It should rather invite us to explore His mysteries. Unlike the fictitious Victoria, however, He is not a curiosity. Seeking Him out is a lifetime calling and a calling to life.

  12. Aaron Haney Avatar

    “Augustine’s statements (which came as a small surprise to me)”

    Well, he rated at least a “Blessed” in the Eastern Church, didn’t he?


  13. John Avatar

    Father, please clarify what you find objectionable about the motto “Be all that you can be!”. I had always considered it to be a stirring challenge, even a virtuous challenge. It carries no invitation to becoming a Nietchean Ubermensch, just developing your talents and abilities to their greatest degree. Isn’t this the very moral of the parable of the talents? And isn’t it the essence of the call to theosis, and the motivation of every one of the saints?

  14. fatherstephen Avatar

    I agree it could be read very positively and was certainly meant that way when the army used it. In the larger culture, “Be all you can be,” is more a motto of the belief that you can actually be anything you want. Which, of course is a different thing. Good point.

  15. johndoetoo Avatar

    The “thing” is, to want the right thing. And the central point is, what (or who!) molds our wants, yes?

  16. Theophan Avatar

    Father, bless.

    I sometimes feel that we allow a pendulum to swing too far in how we describe what we mean by the “unknowability” of God in apophatic theology, and that Blessed Augustine’s and Fr. Hopko’s lines could seem to imply that we must resign ourselves to a total separation, an unbridgeable gulf, a distance from a God we can never know. I think that the Orthodox understanding of theosis contradicts this (and I think you probably agree, but because these things don’t go well into words, it’s hard sometimes to be sure of each other’s meaning).

    God indeed can be known, and the process of repentance, self-emptying, purification, illumination and communion with God in theosis surely is a process of coming to know God, by God’s grace. It is not that we cannot know God; it is that we cannot know God through the rational, if-this-therefore-that, “scholastic” approach of Western theology. We cannot know God through the proud rational intellect alone.

    The anonymous author of the _Cloud of Unknowing_ was post-Schism and therefore not Orthodox, but he made a wonderful point, I believe, in saying that the rational, intellectual “knowing” ability is finite, and can never contain infinite God, but that the nonverbal, arational way of “knowing,” through love, indeed can know God. And he called this, to the best of my recollection, “the everlastingly wonderful miracle of love.” By the grace of God, through repentance, self-emptying, purification, humility, and love, God in His love can come to illumine us, and we can enter into communion with God.

    To say with Blessed Augustine that “It is He about Whom we have no knowledge unless it be to know how we do not know Him,” at least without additional context or explanation to make this clear, surely is to overstate the case, and seems to imply that we must remain forever separate from a distant and truly, wholly unknowable God. I am sure that would not be the arid message that we Orthodox intend to give the world. So when we say “mystery” of God, we mean much more than merely a “sense of wonder” before a distant, unknowable impersonal deity. Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, and Jesus replied that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father, and He later prayed that we and Jesus might be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Surely to be one with Jesus, Who is one with the Father, is to know God, and that through Jesus, it is exactly this to which we all are to aspire.

    Have I misunderstood? Do you disagree?

    Many thanks for your wonderful writings!

  17. fatherstephen Avatar

    I agree. We indeed must know God – it is our salvation – but, if you will, we know Him unknowably (or something like that).

  18. Eric Avatar

    Remembering back to my college philosophy course, this idea actually remind me a lot of Plato, which isn’t surprising since Augustine was influenced by him. For Plato, one of the biggest marks of a true philosopher was knowing what he didn’t know. I’m not sure where I stand on the whole debate of Plato as a sort of pre-Christian, but this would seem to point in a positive direction.

  19. William Avatar

    One way to look at the seemingly irreconcilable facts that God is unknowable to us but that we are nevertheless able to know him is to consider God’s eternity and infinity (and, of course, speaking truly apophatically, his being beyond eternity and infinity). Next to infinity, any finitude in ourself is the same as zero.

    Another way to look at them is just to fall on our faces in sheer awe and repentance because the love and condescension of God, who makes us, if we will, be partakers and bearers of his uncontainable nature, which allows us to know what/who we do not know to whatever degree it is possible for us.

    Thank you Fr. Stephen for this post and the two before it. They go together very beautifully.

  20. Andrew K. D. Smith Avatar

    Knowing the unknowable, or however you want to put that, shouldn’t be a big shock. We don’t understand our friends, our spouses – often times, if we really think about it, ourselves – and yet we like to think that God should be understood…but, how?

  21. Alice C. Linsley Avatar

    Theophan, your wrote “intellectual ‘knowing’ ability is finite, and can never contain infinite God, but that the nonverbal, arational way of ‘knowing,’ through love, indeed can know God.”

    My college Ethics students are discussing what Jacques Derrida (Arabic-speaking Jew from North Africa) spoke of as “metaphysical presence”. His deconstruction led Derrida to the conclusion that “there is something at the center” and he claimed this metaphysical presence is called by different names, “God” being one of them. This concept is very difficult for my students because, even the Christian ones, are steeped in empirical and materialist ideologies. Salvation for most of them means knowing information about God.

  22. Katia Avatar

    The Spiritual World by Photios Kontoglou.

    Contemporary man has altogether forgotten the world that is within himself and has occupied himself only with the world that is outside himself, the material world. He investigates by means of science, “the outside of the cup and of the platter” (Matt. 23:25).

    One world is material, the other, spiritual. One is for the transitory life; the other for the eternal. One is in space and time, while the other is beyond space and time.

    Today’s man lives materialistically, busying himself with spiritually false things. Only matter interests him, the rather coarse, more tangible aspect of the universe. He cannot experience spiritual reality by means of his bodily senses and does not concern himself with it. He who projects machines made of aluminum into space, he whose brain is full of numbers, screws, springs, and other such things, cannot understand what is hidden behind the material world perceived by means of his physical senses. How can he taste the fruit that is hidden inside the husk of the universe? He can only nourish himself with a husk, for it is the husk that his materialistic science is constantly studying. How can he understand the words of Christ, who says, “The kingdom of God is with us”? Or those of the Apostle Paul, who says: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). How can this barbaric and hardhearted people, who are attached to the mud of matter, understand the words of the divinely inspired Paul, who says that carnal men, “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator?” (Rom. 1:25).

    For those who are engrossed with the knowledge of material things, “the mystical gate is closed,” and they are not given even a small way into the concept “the holy of holies.” Their materialistic minds do not experience any other life besides that of the flesh. They have placed all their hopes in it and are incapable of hearkening to the words of Paul, who says: “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). That is, if we believe only in this life, we are the most miserable of all human beings. And elsewhere he calls such materialistic individuals those “who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).

    Indeed, we see that such people are full of anguish, fear, and agitation, because “the wages of sin is death.” “For whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, for he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8). And elsewhere it is written that “to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). In saying “peace,” Saint Paul means true peace, whereas only a false peace is found in the external, material world in which the materialists believe.

    “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” asks Christ (Matt. 16:26). But who listens to Him? All of us are striving to gain this unreal world. We do not want to understand those words which used to be sung by a beggar with the wisdom that is possessed by simple men:

    I entered into the world naked

    And will go out of it naked.

    The world is alien,

    It belongs to no one.

    Therefore, listen again my brother to what Saint Paul says, and try to understand something of the hidden world of mystery that is behind the external world. We investigate with the aid of machines, believing in our learned ignorance that we possess knowledge of the roots of the totality of things.

    St. Paul says: “The creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption” (Rom. 8:21). The “bondage of corruption” is the slavery of those who live and labor for the corruptible world of matter; those whose thoughts are bad and foolish. Those who are without faith and without love are full of death, since they are preoccupied with the world of corruption which has no hope, but is full of darkness and despair. These individuals are the faithful followers of Satan, who serve him obediently without knowing why.

    On the other hand, the faithful ones of God, “the children of God,” possess freedom, true freedom, which consists in knowledge of the Truth, that is, of Christ.

    Only through this knowledge do the nuptial doors open, from which the soul beholds the wondrous light of the incorruptible essence of the cosmos. The thoughts of these children of God are good, peaceful, and gladdening. “Become peaceful within yourself,” says a certain saint, “and heaven and earth will become peaceful. Enter into the chamber that is within you, and from there you will behold the palace of heaven.”

    Christ has revealed the things that exist in incorruptible heaven. The true things which the soul looks at from the mystical chamber are inside us. They are blessed, peaceful isles in the ocean that extends beyond every material constellation, and are outside the slavery of space and time.

  23. fatherstephen Avatar


    Indeed. I have written several times on the mystery of man. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thus should each person be approached with fear and wonder.

  24. Tiffani Avatar

    “Augustine’s statements (which came as a small surprise to me)”

    Father Bless,

    Forgive me, but then you do not know Augustine even if once you were an Anglican. Rome is not only West. It is also East. His thoughts – beyond original sin which I am sure you have studied – will encourage your Orthodox faith.

    Pray for me a Roman sinner this First Friday during Lent.

    We adore you o Christ and we bless you
    For by your Holy Cross
    You have redeemed the world

  25. fatherstephen Avatar

    There is much that I like about Augustine, and I have read much of him. But it is also often apparent that he did not read the Eastern fathers to a very large extent. But I like him. He’s Orthodox.

  26. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, bless!

    Thanks for this post. I, too, was initially a little scared and put off by the “unknowability” spoken of in the Fathers because it sounded a bit like they were saying God is so big and transcendant that there is no way to make a real personal experiential connection with Him (which is not at all what they were saying). I understand it now to mean the incomprehendibility (don’t know if that’s truly a word?) of God. All our words and definitions cannot contain Him. We can say what God is not, but we can never come close to fully describing all that He is. I take great comfort in knowing He is God and I am not! 🙂

  27. Katia Avatar

    Father Bless,

    I may be very wrong in my thinking i beg you to correct me, i ll try to explain how i understand it, i did not want to use my words cos they come back and chase me … i am not theologian or highly educated but this is what i feel:

    It is not given to us to know God is out of our reach,but is given to us to know His Son and the Holy Spirit. Our christian goal in this life is if i correctly remember – St Seraphim of Sarov said to Motovilov, is to acquire the Holy Spirit. We are baptise,take part in the Holy Communion and we are made in God’s image and this represent some how the Trinity. Jesus Christ said be perfect like me and if we know him or see him we’ve already seen the Father. We just have to know Jesus Christ and if we follow His Way with Humility, Faith, Hope and LOVE to our neighbour and God, strive to be perfect in everything He is asking us in his commandments, we will be very busy with our own big battle to get to know Him and will not have time to think the unthinkable, we have to learn to walk before start running. I might be very wrong but i do know a little bit Jesus Christ trough the Holy Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers ant through my very sinful heart and the prayers.

    Please forgive my ignorance

  28. fatherstephen Avatar

    Katia, you are very right that it is given to us to know Christ and the Holy Spirit and this should daily be the delight of our heart.

    It is true as the theologians and saints quoted here have have said that the good God who loves mankind is also beyond human knowing – and yet He makes Himself known. It is a mystery we celebrate. But the bottom line, is that we may indeed know Him! Thus you are correct.

    I think of this Scripture: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (John 1:18).

    Katia, continue to do as you are doing. God has blessed you. Pray for me, a sinner.

  29. Katia Avatar

    “… Not unto us, O Lord,not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory, for Thy mercy and Thy truth, Lest haply the heathen say: Where is their God? But our God is in heaven and on earth; all things soever He hath willed, He hath done…” Ps.113

    I do pray for you Father, please pray for me the greatest sinner

  30. Katia Avatar

    Father Bless,

    after i have written what i thought i had to go and search for a proof to myself that i have not think wrong or said something in vain and i found the following,which is beautifully said by Bishop Alexander Mileant and i do want to share it with you,you maybe read it, but there it is:

    The revelation of godly
    perfections through Jesus Christ

    Two thousand years ago a great miracle occurred, a mystery of piety was revealed: the Highest God, dwelling in unapproachable glory, in the Person of the Only-Begotten Son of God came to our earth and became human. The Son of God hid the glory of His Godly nature under the cover of a human body so as not to turn people to ashes. So the invisible becomes visible, the intangible — tangible, the unknown — becomes accessible to our knowledge.

    “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” said Jesus Christ to his contemporaries (John 14:9). What Godly characteristics were revealed to people, who saw and associated with the Son of God? They saw what is characteristic of God — His omnipotence and omniscience. The earthly life of the Savior was accompanied by a stream of miracles. For Him incurable diseases did not exist. Lifeless nature immediately obeyed His Godly word; the angels served Him with trepidation as Sovereign; evil demons ran from Him trembling, like guilty servants; even inexorable death and absolute hell capitulated to Him, releasing their hostages to heaven. All the acts of His Godly omnipotence were performed in full view of all. They left an indelible print on the history of humanity. The awareness of the reality of their meeting the Creator was so strong in the disciples of Christ, that all of them dedicated their lives to preaching to the world the joyous news about the coming of God to earth. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was manifested unto us,” wrote St. John the Theologian (1 John 1:1-2).

    Besides Godly omnipotence, people, by associating with Christ, saw in Him something very valuable for themselves in a moral regard — His spiritual qualities and holiness. An entire spectrum of His virtues was revealed to people in the earthly life of the Savior: His sensitivity, compassion, unselfishness, courage, patience and, in particular, — his limitless Love. The apostles continually mention the compassion of Christ, of His pity for perishing man: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” Thus “and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,” — concludes St. John the Theologian (1 John 3:16).

    Feeling the strength of Christ’s Love, the Apostle Paul so describes the characteristics of this virtue: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). So, Christ with His life and deeds showed the world the moral perfection of God and gave us the opportunity to understand, what the image and likeness of God in man consists of, and to what we must strive.

    *** *** ***

    In summary, God is the Highest Spiritual Being, from Whom is everything and without Whom nothing is conceivable. He has no beginning and will never have an end, being above any time and space. He is everywhere at once, penetrating everything, but nothing can penetrate Him. He is the beginning, the continuation, and life of everything existing. He is infinitely kind and, at the same time, infinitely just. Not needing anything, He in His goodness concerns Himself with the entire visible and invisible world and directs the life of each person toward salvation. The path to knowing God and eternal bliss is revealed to persons through the Only-Begotten Son of God.

    Contemporary man, with his tremendous baggage of all sorts of knowledge, knows little and thinks little about God. Everything is directed as if on purpose towards distracting his thoughts from the most important — from God and from eternity, denying the person active association with the Creator. From this comes total lightlessness of bustle, continual disappointment and spiritual gloom. It is imperative to make a willful effort, to shift the bustle to secondary status, turn full front to God and to see His light. Then, through association with Him, we will feel His nearness and goodness, will see His directing right hand in our life, and will learn to revere His will. Thus God will gradually become the most important in life to us — the source of our strength, peace and happiness, the goal of our existence. He will become our Father, and we — His children.

  31. Katia Avatar

    I think of this Scripture: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (John 1:18).

    ” Because the Evangelist had stated that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, to confirm his words he now adds, ” I have said nothing unbelievable. Neither Moses, nor any other man, ever saw God. Nor could Moses tell us clearly and distinctly about God. As a servant his task was merely to deliver the written law. But Christ the Only- Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, not only sees God, but declares and explains God to all men. Therefore, because He is the Son, sees the Father, and is, as it were, in the bosom of the father, He fittingly gave us grace and truth.” Perhaps someone will ask, ” How is it that we read here that no man has seen God, when the prophet says, I saw the lord(Is. 6:1)?” What the prophet saw was not the essence of God, but a likeness and vision of it, as much as he had the capacity to perceive. And other prophets saw God in other figures. From this verse it is clear that they did not see truth itself in this various images, for God is single essence without form. Not even the angels see the essence of God, though they are said to “behold His face”; which indicates merely that God is always visible to them in some form. Only the Son sees the Father; only the Son declares and explain Him to all men. When you hear, in the bosom of the Father, do not imagine that God has a body or anything of that sort. The Evangelist uses this word to show that the Word is the true Son of the Father, inseparable and co-eternal.”

    by Blessed Theophylact

  32. fatherstephen Avatar

    Indeed. This is all true.

  33. Katia Avatar

    The One G o d Worshipped in the Trinity

    Bishop Alexander (Mileant).

    Translated by Nicolas and Natalie Semyanko
    Edited by Donald Shufran

    “…One instructive story is preserved regarding this about the famous western teacher of the Church — the blessed Augustine. Immersed once in thought about the mystery of the Trinity and constructing a plan for a composition on this theme, he departed for the shore of the sea. There he saw how a boy, playing in the sand, was digging a hole. Approaching the boy, Augustine asked him: “What are you doing?” — “I want to pour the sea into this hole,” answered the boy, smiling. Then Augustine understood: “Am I not doing the same thing as this boy, trying to comprehend the sea of the infinity of God with my intellect?”

    In the same manner, even that great universal saint and bishop Gregory, who, for his ability to fathom with his thoughts even the deepest mysteries of faith, is honored by the Church with the name Theologian, wrote concerning himself, that he speaks more often about the Trinity than he breathes, and he admits the unsatisfactoriness of all comparisons, directed to the comprehension of the dogma of the Trinity. “No matter what I observed with my inquisitive mind,” says he, “no matter with what I enriched my intellect, no matter where I searched for something resembling this, I did not find, to what Godly essence can be worthily applied.”

    So, the teaching of the Most Holy Trinity is the deepest, most incomprehensible mystery of faith. All efforts to make it understandable, to place it in the usual framework of our thinking are in vain. “Here is the boundary of that” — notes St. Athanasius the Great — “which the cherubims cover with their wings.”

    I hope i got it now, i was not after justification but correctness of my little understanding and as you quote:

    Fr. Thomas Hopko is fond of saying that “We cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that.” Him= Jesus Christ

    With love in Christ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to blog via email

Support the work

Your generous support for Glory to God for All Things will help maintain and expand the work of Fr. Stephen. This ministry continues to grow and your help is important. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

Latest Comments

  1. Matthew, You asked how I would feel. I just glanced at my previous comments. I’m not sure I have presented…

Read my books

Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman

Listen to my podcast