In Him We Live And Move and Have Our Being

mandylion_str_01St. John of the Ladder wrote:

Every free creature lives in God. God is everyone’s salvation. God loves believers and unbelievers, the just and the unjust, the pious and the impious, those free of passions and those subject to passions, monks and those living worldly lives, the educated and the illiterate, the healthy and the sick, the young and the old. God is like an outpouring of light, a glimpse of the sun, or changes in the weather. God touches everyone, without exception, through these things.

Abba Zeno told us:

If you want God to hear your prayer when you stand, stretching out your hands toward God, you must sincerely begin by praying for your enemies. When you do this, God will respect all your requests.

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Apparently, when we pray for our enemies, our prayer becomes like an outpouring of light, a glimpse of the sun, or changes in the weather. It becomes good without exception.


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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25 responses to “In Him We Live And Move and Have Our Being”

  1. Dn Charles Avatar

    “God is like an outpouring of light, a glimpse of the sun, or changes in the weather. ” I like the lightness of this. Especially “changes in the weather.”

  2. mrh Avatar
    mrh

    Fr. Stephen, can you recommend a particular prayer to use when praying for enemies?

  3. NICHOLAS Avatar
    NICHOLAS

    Fr. Stephen:
    I am trying to wrap my head around the understanding that GOD is not passionate and I know that the passions are from the enemy and that GOD is love. My mind is finite and having come from a protestant background where the idea of being “close to GOD” was sitting around debating theology and proving my point sometimes very heated and in an angry way. Later I became Orthodox and now not only do I realize that I am “AN IGNORANT MAN” but a very ignorant man I realized that the more I learned from before or thought I knew only became stumbling blocks for me later in life. Now I have a hard time getting anything to sink into my thick skull because im very passionate and proud. can you make these or especially the last post easier for me.

  4. Damaris Avatar
    Damaris

    Oh, I love this. Thank you.

  5. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Nicholas, your post is a breath of fresh air after my recent exposure to some still deeply immersed in your former idea of what it means to be “close to God!” Thank you! 🙂

    I keep thinking of the Lord’s word to St. Silouan, “Keep your mind in hell, and despair not.” I’ve been reading a little again in Fr. Sophrony’s book We Shall See Him As He Is. He talks about the suffering of a true repentance being a necessary condition of the joy and blessedness of our experience (even here and now) of our Communion in the Resurrection Life of Christ (the uncreated Light). One of the keys in my experience to allowing Truth to sink in (just a little) to my similarly thick skull is being willing (or being willing to become willing) with God’s help to endure the suffering of soul that seeing my sin for what it is and becoming obedient to the commands of Christ necessarily entails in a fallen world. The other is not to lose sight of what is revealed of God in the Incarnation (especially the Cross and Resurrection) of Christ. There is no depth of humility to which God in Christ will not descend in order to help us and lift us up out of the mire of our sin. Once, in view of my struggle with the passions, I complained on this blog and asked what hope there was for me. Fr. Stephen answered, “There is Christ. What more hope do we need?” That was enough to bring me to my senses at the time (and keep me there, for the time being). There was also a wonderful quote from St. Terese about being willing to endure patiently being displeasing to oneself. Perhaps he could reprise for us here. I need to put a copy of it on my fridge for a constant reminder. May God grant your heart’s desire to see Him more clearly.

  6. Donald J Chakras Avatar
    Donald J Chakras

    Yes, believe, God touches everybody and all these things. Believe and the world will be a better place and all will be saved

  7. Darla Avatar

    mrh, if I may … Fr. Stephen included the following in “Forgiveness: The hardest love of all” (March 13, 2009) —

    2. Use this prayer for the enemies who seem to be beyond your ability to pray: “O God, at the dread judgment, do not condemn them for my sake.” This places forgiveness at a distance and even a hard heart can often manage the small prayer of forgiveness at such a distance.

  8. George Patsourakos Avatar

    God loves all human beings. On the other hand, human beings tend to hate their enemies.

    Indeed, when human beings sincerely forgive their enemies, by praying for them, God will respect all of their requests.

  9. Helen Asimou Avatar

    The post today (9/1/09) was timely and much appreciated. Father Stephen are you available for speaking engagements at Orthodox parish retreats; and if so, how would you be contacted? Thank You

  10. T Avatar
    T

    If I would have read this post when I was Calvinist, I would have been scandalized to read that God would readily hear my prayers IF I began praying for my enemies in earnest. To say that positive experiences of prayer and God are dependent on things I do would have made me furious. Now I know the truth-that our salvation is synergistic, not monergistic.

  11. Diana S. Avatar
    Diana S.

    If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.
    St. Therese of Lisieux

  12. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    T, I suspect it would be enlightening and encouraging to know some of the milestones the Holy Spirit used on your journey from there to here.

    Diana, thanks so much. That’s the one!

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    Helen,
    I am available on an occasional basis. I can be reached through:

    email hidden; JavaScript is required

    Thank you.

  14. Peg Avatar
    Peg

    I try to remember to say, “God bless him/her/them and have mercy on me.” Can’t remember where I learned it.

  15. Lizzy L Avatar
    Lizzy L

    Karen, thank you for your comment. Very helpful.

    When I begin to feel irritated or angry at another human being’s behavior or personality, (which I do, daily) I say to myself, “We are all children of God.” For some reason, just that simple reminder gives me the space, the grace, to step back and relinquish my foolish habit of judgment. Then I express my contrition, ask forgiveness for the sin, and go on.

    I don’t think I have any enemies — only people whom I have not forgiven. That hardness of heart is my sin, with which I struggle. If I do have enemies — people who actively wish me ill — I hope God pardons them, as I hope he pardons me when I fall into anger or malice. I do know that I desperately need his help, that I cannot do any of it by myself.

  16. Terry M. Avatar
    Terry M.

    Lizzy L – Thanks for your thoughts. I feel so similar to you about my own shortcomings. At those times I try to remember to say the Jesus prayer and include all of us, not just me. Then I give thanks that God has had mercy on us all, regardless of who it is and what has happened.

    Father Stephen – God blesses me so often through this blog. Thank you for your cooperation with Him.

  17. mike Avatar
    mike

    …. …if God loves everyone then He is looking at us and seeing something that my eyes cant see………Occasionally something (as the quote from st john of the ladder) will trigger a glimpse of God as if He were an ambivelent Force present there in the back of creation…steady..reliable..sure..constant..unchanging… like a law of physics..He just IS..and we can observe Him daily acting through creation..without regard of persons..makeing the sun to rise…

  18. fatherstephen Avatar

    A breakthough begins to happen, I think, when we begin to understand Person more fully than our modern use of the term. He acts personally in all things, but that invites us into the mystery of His Person – which also invites us in return to the mystery of who we truly are in Christ.

  19. Nate Avatar
    Nate

    Fr. Stephen,

    I really enjoyed this post. As you know, I am not an Eastern Orthodox, but a Roman Catholic. However, I always laugh at myself because if I were ever to become an Eastern Orthodox, I already have my icon wall picked out and ready to go! I would absolutely have an icon of St Silouan the Athonite and St Theophan the Recluse (both of whom I read on a daily basis.)

    I was curious if you have ever read the book entitled, “Saint Silouan the Athonite” by Archimandrite Sophrony?

    St Silouan says that we should have one thought in our hearts…that all should be saved and come into salvation, and in order to have this desire in our hearts, we must pray for our enemies.

    But how do we pray for our enemies without pride and conceit? How can we pray for our enemies with humility?

  20. fatherstephen Avatar

    St silouan would teach us that to pray for my enemy I must believe that I am no better than he. This is difficult at the very least because we do not comprehend the truth or depth of our own sin nor the mystery in which we sinners share a common “life”. Dosoevsky says, “Each man is guilty of the sins of the whole world.” I would use a term other than “guilty” but I would agree and recognize in this a deep patrisric consensus.

  21. Brandon Avatar
    Brandon

    Bless, Father.

    Though I came to Orthodoxy through reading The Brothers Karamazov, that quote from Dostoevsky troubled me for quite some time. Then I read a quote from an elder- I do not remember who, but I believe it was from a 20th century Athonite- that said (and I’m paraphrasing) “When we hear of a great sin, such as a mother killing her children, we should not say ‘How can anyone do such a thing?’ We should instead repent, because it is our sins that allow such evil to enter the world.” The burden of my sins is greater than I can even imagine. Thank God that through Confession we are forgiven for those things we have “failed to confess out of ignorance or forgetfulness, whatever these things may be.”

  22. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Brandon, the wisdom of the Athonite Elders (and Fathers of the Church) is such a treasure trove of rich fare! I have mentioned before that it was God’s bringing to my awareness in recent years this particular truth (the unity of the human family in our sin–how each of our sins impacts all others, how we all share common weaknesses and temptations even if our “sins” on the surface take different forms) and also the fullness of the Church’s teaching on the humility and mercy of God (through “The River of Fire” and St. Isaac the Syrian) that brought me to Orthodoxy.

  23. Mary Avatar
    Mary

    Our priest has taught us to use this prayer of St. Silouan’s whenever we are annoyed or angry with others:

    “O Lord, we are all Thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants and turn our hearts to repentance.”

  24. milk thistle…

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