Our Knowledge of God: The Dogma of Faith

 Icon of the Mother of God "Our Lady of Sitka"

Icon of the Mother of God "Our Lady of Sitka"

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.

+++

OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD: THE DOGMA OF FAITH

The first word of our Christian Symbol of Faith is "I believe." All of our Christian confession is based on upon faith. God is the first object of Christian belief. Thus, our Christian acknowledgment of the of the existence of God is founded not upon rational grounds, not on proofs taken from reason or received from the experience of our outward senses, but upon an inward, higher conviction which has a moral foundation.

In the Christian understanding, to believe in God signifies not only to acknowledge God with the mind but also to strive towards Him with the heart.

We believe that which is inaccessible to outward experience, to scientific investigation, to being received by our outward organs of sense. Saint Gregory the Theologian distinguishes between religious belief--"I believe in someone, in something"--and a simple personal belief--"I believe someone, I believe something." He writes: "It is not one and the same thing 'to believe in something' and 'to believe something.' We believe in the Divinity, but we simply believe any ordinary thing" ("On the Holy Spirit," Part III, p. 88 in the Russian edition of his Complete Work; p. 319 in the Eerdmans English text).

Belief or Faith as an Attribute of the Soul

Christian faith is a mystical revelation in the human soul. It is broader, more powerful, closer to reality than thought. It is more complex than separate feelings. It contains within itself the feelings of love, fear, veneration, reverence, and humility. Likewise, it cannot be called a manifestation of the will, for although it moves mountains, the Christian renounces his own will when he believes, and entirely gives himself over to the will of God: "May Thy will be done in me, a sinner." The path to faith lies in the heart; it is inseparable from pure, sacrificial love, "working through love" (Galatians 5:6).

Of course, Christianity is bound up also with knowledge of the mind; it gives a worldview. But if it remained only a worldview, its power to move would vanish. Without faith, it would not be the living bond between heaven and earth. Christian belief is something much greater than the "persuasive hypothesis" which is the kind of belief usually encountered in life.

The Power of Faith

The Church of Christ is founded upon faith as upon a rock which does not shake beneath it. By faith, the Saints conquered kingdoms, quenched the power of fire, escaped the sharp sword, were strengthened in infirmity" (Hebrews 11:33-38). Being inspired by faith, Christians went to torture and death with joy. Faith is a rock, but a rock that is impalpable, free of heaviness and weight, that draws one upward and not downward.

"He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," said the Lord (St. John 7:38); and the preaching of the Holy Apostles, a preaching in the power of the word. In the power of the Spirit, in the power of signs and wonders (miracles), was a living testimony of the truth of the words of the Lord. Such is the mystery of living Christian faith.

The Source of Faith

"If ye have faith, and doubt not...if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done" (St. Matthew 21:21). The history of the Church of Christ is filled with the miracles of the Saints of all ages. However, miracles are not performed by faith in general, but by Christian faith. Faith is a reality not by the power of imagination and not by self-hypnosis, but by the fact that it binds one with the source of all life and power--with God. In the expression of the Hieromartyr Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, faith is a vessel by which water is scooped up; but one must be next to this water and must put the vessel into it: this water is the grace of God. "Faith is the key to the treasure-house of God," writes Saint John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ, Vol. I, p. 242 in the Russian edition).

Faith is strengthened and its truth is confirmed by the benefits of its spiritual fruits which are known by experience. Therefore the Holy Apostle instructs us, saying, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Yet, it is difficult to give a definition of what faith is. When the Holy Apostles says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1), without touching here on the nature of faith, he indicates only what its gaze is directed towards: towards that which is awaited, towards the invisible; and thus he indicates precisely that faith is the penetration of the soul into the future ("the substance of things hoped for"), or into the invisible ( "the evidence of things not seen"). This testifies to the mystical character of Christian faith. (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Fr. Michael Pomazansky).

_______________

ON FAITH; AND TO THOSE WHO SAY THAT THOSE IN THE WORLD CANNOT ATTAIN PERFECTION
By Saint Symeon the New Theologian

"Have you heard, brethren, what faith in God can do, when it shows in right actions? Have you understood that youth does not hinder, nor old age help if a man lacks reason and the fear of God? Have you realized that the world and worldly cares do not hinder in fulfilling God's Commandments when there is zeal and attention? That silence and retirement from the world are useless if laziness and negligence prevail? ".

Saint Symeon the New Theologian said: "To have faith in Christ means more than simply despising the delights of this life. It means we should bear all our daily trials that may bring us sorrow, distress, or unhappiness, and bear them patiently for as long as God wishes and until He comes to visit us. For it is said, 'I waited on the Lord and He came to me."

_____________________

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

+++

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

+Father George