The Way of the Spirit: Reflections of Life in God

Repose of St. Raphael the Bishop of Brooklyn

Repose of St. Raphael the Bishop of Brooklyn

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT: REFLECTIONS ON LIFE IN GOD (Part III)
By Archimandrite AIMILIANOS Of The Sacred Monastery Of SIMONOPETRA AT THE HOLY MOUNTAIN

God "is seated on a high and exalted throne" (Isaiah 6:1). But neither sits down nor stands up. These are postures for bodily beings. Neither can God be encompassed or enclosed by a throne, because the Divinity cannot be circumscribed by limits. These things, however, are the expressions of an unalterable truth, namely: that God is permanently, unshakably established in absolute power, peace and serenity. Through the "likeness" of the throne, God tells us: "Don't worry. I am the Eternal and permanent. See how stable, and assured, and comfortable I am on this throne. See how peaceful and serene I am, sitting here ready to listen to you. I'm in no hurry. I won't get tired. I won't protest, or get up and leave you here alone. I'm sitting here, and patiently waiting for you, my child.

The throne manifests the patience and forbearance of God. No sooner do we want Him, then there He is, entirely present and entirely turned toward us. Thus the throne where God sits is a symbol of the fact that God is mine and yours. It reveals that He is at the ready, waiting for us. And we will have Him for as long as the Cherubim and the Seraphim continue to exist. And they will exist forever.

The throne has yet another side to it, another dimension of meaning, which reminds us that God is the God of judgment and righteousness. Although God does not intrude upon our freedom, He will nevertheless call us to account for all that we have done in our lives. This is why Daniel says that, before the throne, "the court sat in judgment and the books were opened" (Daniel 7:10). And this is why the Creed (Symbol of Faith) says that Christ will "come again to judge the living and the dead." And these are things that we shall hear repeated in various ways on Meat-Fare Sunday.

We need, then, to add the truth of justice of what a moment ago we called patience and forbearance. Those are indeed qualities of God, but as the Psalmist says, "Thy throne, O God, is made up of justice. Justice is the preparation and the basis of Your throne" (Psalm 88:15; 96:2). But to this the Psalmist immediately adds: "Mercy and truth shall go before His face." In His desire to save the world, God holds back His judgment, and gives us instead His mercy and truth," His serenity, love, and gentleness of heart. "Before His face shall go His mercy and truth," which is to say that He unleashes the bounds of His love: His mercy will hunt us down. Wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing: sitting, sleeping, keeping vigil, sinning, thinking, talking, God sends out His mercy at that very moment.

And when will judgment come? When the hunt is over. When God's mercy and grace have pursued us and taken us captive, softened our hearts, moved us deeply, and made us think of nothing but Him. We catch a glimpse of this in the iconography of the Second Coming of the Lord. Have you ever noticed that, within the very center of these images there is an empty throne? This is the throne of Christ, but Christ isn't there. The throne is either empty, or has the Gospel on it. That is a symbol of God's love. How? Christ is absent from the throne at which we will be judged, as if He's telling us: "I'm not finished with you. I'm not ready to sit on My throne, pick up the gavel and pass sentence. I'm still roaming the streets, your houses, your hearts, hoping to find you, so that you are not lost forever." The "books," as Daniel says, "are opened," but God does not wish to close them until our names are inscribed therein, "for if anyone's name is not found written in the book of life, he will be thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

This is why "all judgment has been given to Christ, for He is the Son of man" (St. John 5:27). Why did the Father give the judgment to the Son rather than to Himself? Because Christ, Who is the Son of God, is also "the Son of Man." And as such He understands us, He feels for us, having lived, labored, suffered, wept, and died as we do. Like us He grew weary, felt sleepy, and got hungry; this is why He is the One Who will judge us, and this is also why He delays the judgment: because "He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

The throne, then, belongs both to God the Father and Christ the "slaughtered lam" (Revelation 5:6), Who "sits at the right hand of the Father." And this is exactly what the Prophets saw: the "likeness of man seated upon the divine throne" (cf., Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 7:13), in order to show us that there, on the throne, sits not only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but our human nature too.

God did not simply create the earth for man to live on. He made a place for us on His own throne, where we can sit at ease. This is why Christ, Whom the Prophets beheld as the "likeness of man, sat down at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1): so that we, the human nature with which Christ clothed Himself, can also be seated there with Him. In this way, human nature becomes a partaker of the heavenly throne, and all that it stands for, since "God in Christ has made us His sons and heirs by grace" (cf., Romans 8:17).

The first human to sit on the throne of God was the Mother of God. And this was only fitting for a woman who, during her life, was herself the "living throne of God," the "fiery throne of God," the very "cherubic throne" itself, and "more spacious than the heavens," inasmuch as she contained God. She who had freely given her own body to be the dwelling place, the throne of the Divinity, is now enthroned within God forever. And to the extent that we allow God to enter our lives, He will offer the same throne to us. Through the incarnate Christ and His Mother, who share the same flesh, the whole of human nature sat on the throne of God. This is, then, yet another symbol of the throne: the honor which God has given to humanity! I'm a confused and troubled sinner, yet Christ and I have been placed on an equal footing before the Father!

(To be continued)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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A BLESSED HOLY AND GREAT LENT TO ALL!!!

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George