The Way of the Spirit: Reflections of Life in God (Part II)

St. Porphyrius the Bishop of Gaza

St. Porphyrius the Bishop of Gaza

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 OF LIFE IN GOD
By Archimandrite AIMILIANOS OF SIMONOPETRA - MT. ATHOS

[Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians 5: 22-26; 6:1-2]

"Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Epistle Lesson from Cheese -Fare Saturday)

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The Throne of God

The King of creation is beyond all creation. But because He is the king, because He has a throne at all, it means He is the Lord, and has subjects. Thus the invisible God, the transcendent God, mingles with His people and is involved in their dealings and affairs. He hears their pleas and petitions, their demands for justice and the anguish of their hearts. And though He is the infinite God, in His infinite love He becomes quite small so that He can be loved by His people. He rules the world from on high, but does not insist on his royal prerogatives; He does not count divine transcendence a thing to be grasped (cf., Phil. 2:7), but rather descends below, humbles Himself, and becomes one with His people.

In these passages, as if in a portrait, the character of God and His attributes are clearly depicted. How great is our God! He limits in Himself things that are unlimited, so that He can give them to us within our own proper limits. Things impossible he renders possible, so that we might contain them within ourselves, and feel that God is uniquely ours.

The image of God seated on an exalted throne also tells us that He has no rivals, no one threatens Him, He sees no one as an enemy. He alone is the Victor, He alone reigns supreme over all. In the same way, He is beyond all vanity and corruption, beyond all that is small and self-concerned, the very things, in other words, which torment us and cause us to forget God, to lose sight of His throne.

This, then, is our God: exalted above all creation yet nevertheless fully present to the most humble of His creatures. Though His glory fills the universe, we are able to contain Him in our hearts, and be contained by Him.

Let us now consider another aspect of God's throne. Prophet Ezekiel does not say that he "saw a throne," but rather that he "saw the likeness of a throne" (Ezekiel 1:26). And Daniel, who also had a vision of the heavenly throne, says that it "was like a flame of fire" (Dan. 7:9). Why does Ezekiel say that it was the "likeness" of a throne? Why does Daniel say that it was "like a fire", or "light"? In part because they want to indicate that the throne of God is not like anything else. It is exclusively and uniquely what it is. In this respect, God's throne and God Himself would seem to share the same qualities or attributes, and this is completely appropriate and true, because God's throne is not ultimately something other than God Himself. It is God's "unapproachable light" (1 Timothy 6:16). It is the way God reveals Himself by accommodating what He reveals to the weakness of vision of those who behold Him.

Since the throne of God is an expression of the unlimited, infinite nature of God, it is at once here on earth, beyond the heavens, and present in the depths of the human heart. Is there a place where God is not? No. Then neither is there a place where His throne is not firmly established. But even though God's throne knows no limits, this does not mean that it lacks a center. Saint John the Theologian saw the "throne of the Lamb, in the midst of the Heavenly Jerusalem" (Revelation 22:1), which means "in the midst of the Church." And thus it is only in the Church that we can "draw near to the throne of grace with boldness" (Hebrews 4:16), and so be spared from "the throne from which roars forth the river of fire" (Daniel 7:10). For from the "throne of the lamp flows"--not a river of fire--but "the river of the water of life, bright as crystal" (Revelation 22:1).

In other passages of Holy Scripture, the throne designates heaven. And when heaven is mentioned, it signifies the throne. This is to show us that when we look at the heavens, we are to understand them as the dwelling place of God. And if heaven is God's throne, the earth is naturally his "footstool," as Prophet Isaiah says (Isaiah 66:1; cf. Acts 7:49; St. Matthew 5:35). Wherever I tread, therefore, I know that there, too, tread the feet of God. Do you understand what this means? If someone tells me that something is charged with electric current, and I go ahead and touch it, I know I'll be electrocuted. Here the Prophet is telling me that the earth is God's "footstool," so I know that I am placing my feet where He has placed His. And since we are both standing in the same place, then we must be together, present to each other, and earth becomes heaven, the "garden" of God Himself where He is pleased to "walk in the cool of the day" (cf. Genesis 3:8).

Another aspect of God's throne is that it is surrounded by the highest orders of the Angels: the Seraphim and the Cherubim (cf. Isaiah 6:1; Ezek. 1:5; Dan. 7:10). So close, in fact, is the relationship between these Angels and the throne, that they are often said to be the throne, as in the prayer of the Cherubic Hymn: "You, O God, are the King of Israel, the Lord of the Seraphim, and are mounted on the throne of the Cherubim." In other words, the Cherubim are never absent from the presence of God. What are the Cherubim? They are superior, bodiless spiritual beings, beyond our understanding, whose presence indicates the presence of God. We know that all creation is brimming with Cherubim, and that, with each of them, the Godhead is, in a sense, indivisibly broken up and distributed.

In a fiery circle around the throne of the Cherubim are the ranks of the Seraphim. All together they are beyond counting, which is why Daniel says that "a thousand thousand served Him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" (Daniel 7:10). Standing like a choir around the throne, the Seraphim "call out to one another and say: 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts: Heaven and earth are filled with His glory' (Isaiah 6:3). And the glory that they praise is the uncreated energies of God, which pour forth from the throne and flood, the world, flowing even to us and filling our hearts. If the Cherubim indicate God's presence, the Seraphim bring God still closer, because they sing to us of His passage, His exodus towards each one of us.

(To be continued)

[Please note: This article is taken from the book "The Way Of The Spirit: Reflections On Life In God" By Archimandrite Aimilianos of the Sacred Monastery of Simonopetra at the Holy Mountain, which is a collection of talks given by this holy Elder of Simonopetra.]

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

+Father George