Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind." (St. James 4:7-8)
A PRAYER TO OUR RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
At all times and every hour, in heaven and on earth, O Christ Our God, You are worshiped and glorified; You are long-suffering, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate, You love the righteous and have mercy upon the sinners; You call everyone to salvation through the promise of future blessings; Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour And direct our life toward Your Commandments. Sanctify our souls; make our bodies chaste; Correct our thoughts; purify our intentions; And deliver us from every grief and pain that comes from evil. Encompass us by Your Holy Angels, So that guarded and guided by them We may attain to the unity of the faith And the knowledge of Your inapproachable Glory, For You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
THE CHRISTIAN GOD
by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos
[source: Entering the Orthodox Church]
In the Parable of the Prodigal son God is presented as a Father. It says, "A certain man had two sons." It then goes on to say that the younger son sought his share, saying "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me" (St. Luke 15:11-12). The central figure in this parable is the father. Hence, there are some interpreters who do not call this parable of "the compassionate father" or the "goodness of the father". The father in the parable handles his younger son with love and compassion, yet he also handles his older son's resentment with charity.
The image of the father in reference to God has a double significance. First, it refers to the first person of the Holy Trinity, from Whom the Son was begotten before all ages of time, and from Whom the Holy Spirit proceeds. Second, it refers to his relationship with man, since He created man and the whole world.
The True God, Who we Orthodox Christians believe in, is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are equal in Honor, Glory and Power. This means that the Father is not superior to the Son, nor is the Son inferior to the Father or superior to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not inferior to the Father and the Son. The Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are as equal as the three sides of an equilateral triangle. The only difference is that the eternal and timeless origin of the Son and the Holy Spirit is from the Father; the Son is born from Him and the Spirit proceeds from Him.
This truth was revealed to us by Christ Himself, with His Incarnation, so that Saint Gregory Palamas would tell us that the aim of Christ's Incarnation was to reveal God's Trinity, which man was previously unaware of.
We see God's Trinity in the Jordan River, during Christ's Baptism as a man. The Son is baptized; the Father confirms that He is His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit descends "like a dove" (St. Luke 3:22). We see the same thing at Christ's Transfiguration on mount Tabor. The Son is transfigured before the disciples, and His face shone like the sun, revealing His Divinity. The Father confirms that He is His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit is there in the presence of the Bright Cloud.
Christ repeatedly talked about His Father. Once he said, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working" (St. John 5:17). Elsewhere He says, "I and My Father are One". He calls Himself the Son of God. Towards the end of His life He revealed the existence of the Holy Spirit: "But when the Comforter (Paraclete) comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me" (St. John 15:26).
Following His Resurrection Christ sent His disciples out into all the world to teach people, "baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (St. Matthew 28:19). For this reason, during the sacrament of Baptism, the immersion takes place in the Name of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. "The servant of God [name] is baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Moreover, in all our services, we end by calling upon God the Trinity, "For unto You are due all Glory, Honor and Worship, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages."
Christ's Disciples and Apostles, who received the Revelation, also confirmed God's Trinity. They comprehended that God is Trinity through their own personal experience. This is why Saint Peter would say, "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2). We see the same thing in many passages from the Epistles of Saint Paul the Apostle. Quite characteristic is the Apostolic blessing, which the Church placed within the Divine Liturgy: "The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14).
This witness of the Saints is significant. In the beginning, we must accept this revelation rationally and then we can go on to attain its personal confirmation. We must accept the witness of billions of Saints who assured us that God is Trinity. Some people have gone to outer space and have landed on the moon and we all accept their testimony. Only a few historians preserve some historical event and we consider it to be a certainty. We should do the same thing and more concerning the revelation of the God in Trinity. A revelation given to us by a Saint, who has confirmed this witness with his or her own blood and self-sacrifice.
What is true for human science should also be true here. We all accept the discoveries of a scientist, even if we do not understand them intellectually. We accept them, even if the senses give a different impression. When we accept the conclusions of the scientists, we can then go on to make our own personal experiments and come to our own personal confirmation of these conclusions. The same thing is true concerning spiritual life. At first, we accept the testimony of the Saints and then we struggle to follow the way of life that they followed. Thus, we arrive at the point where we affirm the truth of God's Trinity.
No-one can uphold this Truth with example, because God is uncreated, whereas the world is created. Nevertheless, the Holy Fathers used some examples, such as the existence of three suns in one. There is one sun, with the same brilliance, but there are also three different suns (the disk, the rays and the brightness). Thus, the Persons of the Holy Trinity have personal attributes, but have the same brilliance, in that all three are God. Certainly, the best confirmation, and proof, of the existence God in Trinity is for one to purify his heart of the passions. Then God's grace enters within the purified heart and man gains knowledge of God in Trinity. He then becomes an inhabitant of man. Man is then called a dwelling-place of God.
The fact that God is Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Three Persons, but One Essence is significant for spiritual life. The difference between Christianity and other religions can be found here.
First of all, God is a Person. This means that He is not an abstract, higher power that rules the world, because such an irrational power is destructive. God has love. Impersonal higher powers cannot have love for man. The Revelation that God is a Person and that man is a person shows that man's relationship with God is a personal one. This means that man is not lost like a drop in God's ocean. In Hinduism, however, there is just such an understanding of God and man. There, the individual atman must completely identify with the universal Brahman, and this constitutes salvation. However, such identification does not mean love, since as we know love requires communication, a right relationship, and preservation of freedom. Salvation without love is hatred and love does not preserve freedom is destruction.
Hence, God is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This means that God is love. When we use the verb "I love", it immediately poses the question, "Who do you love?" If the other person does not exist then love cannot exist. The Metropolitan of Ochrid, Nikolai observes: "For someone to conceive of God without the Son, is the same as conceiving of Him, without love. Since all love demands its object. When someone says, "I love" on our part, the question "who do you love?" follows automatically. Who then, would God the Father have loved in eternity, before the creation of the world, if He did not have the Son as an object of His love? It would mean that He did not know how to love, nor was Love in His essence, before He created the world as an object of His love. This would then mean that God acquired something with His act of creation that He did not have before, and thus, He changed. However, this is neither logical, nor does it have any significance. At the same time, it conflicts with Holy Scripture, in which heaven bore witness that in God there is no change nor 'shadow of turning.'"T
Consequently, if we do not accept that God is Trinity, we will regard God as being without love. Instead, He would merely be just. However, this misconstrues our relations with Him. Not only does it distort the revealed truth, but it also distorts man's salvation, as well as man's very own existence.
[to be continued]
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God