“And there is no limit to the outpouring of the Father’s love: man becomes identical with God”

In our earthly existence, before we ‘taste of death’ [Matt. 16:28], our closest contact with the Divine occurs through the shining on us of the Uncreated Light. When this Light comes ‘in strength’ we cannot help recognising that it is the Lord, the Almighty, the Creator of all that exists. At the moment of the vision man is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. As St. Silouan said, ‘In the Holy Spirit is the Lord made known, and the Holy Spirit pervades the whole being—soul, mind and body’. The action of this Light cannot pass unnoticed, unrecognised. Being the eternal energy of God, this Light penetrates us with His power, and we become ‘without beginning’—not through our origin but by the gift of grace: life without beginning is communicated to us. And there is no limit to the outpour­ing of the Father’s love: man becomes identical with God—the same by content, not by primordial Self-Being. God will eternally be GOD for the reasonable being. Christ after His resurrection said to Mary Magdalen, ‘Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God’ [John 20:17]. St Gregory the Theologian offers a masterly interpretation of the Lord’s words. ‘To my Father’ by essence, before all time: ‘To your Father’ by the gift of the Father’s love. ‘To my God’ through the humanity that I took upon Me, not in the literal sense. And this is the eternal situation. For the Man-Christ the Father continues to be God; for us likewise. But as the plenitude of Divine life is communi­cated to the Man-Christ, so is the same plenitude communicated to those who are saved in Christ …

The initial action of a small degree of this Light—if one may measure a Divine gift—is recognised by a profound sensation of the Living God in our heart and mind; but it is not yet like the coming of the Kingdom in strength, not like manifest ‘personal’ contact with Him. It is essential to emphasize that Divine Light is always and without fail linked with a sense of grace of which our whole being is aware. In this connection Blessed St. Silouan both said and wrote: ‘If thou seest light, and that is all’—to wit, feel no sense of grace—‘then it comes from the “enemy” and must be rejected’.

Intellection of the inscrutability of the Divine Self-Being does not necessarily require a high degree of spiritual knowledge. Many while still lacking experience of the Uncreated Light—‘that which may be known of God’ existentially [cf. Rom. 1:19]—have perceived the unfathomableness of the Divinity through the normal process of philosophical contempla­tion. Philosophical contemplation cannot be equated with the experience accorded to Moses. ‘And Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was’ [Exod. 20:21]. Ontologically, it rates much lower, although it does denote the intellect’s potential for genuine contemplation—but not in isolation from the heart, the centre of man’s personalism.

I have already pointed out more than once that after intense concentration the intellect may perceive itself as light—faint, but light. And if the intellect regards itself as the highest manifestation of man, and without the love of the heart devotes itself to its abstract ascent to Absolute Being, in certain cases it arrives at Luciferism with its deadly’cold light’ and merciless contempt for the sufferings of millions.

Our mind is created in the image and after the likeness of the First Mind—God. Light is natural to is since it was made in the image of Him Who is Light unoriginate. When, in its ascetic contemplation of the mysteries of Unoriginate Being, the mind crosses the threshold of time and space, and for us ourselves becomes like light, then man stands in danger of mistaking this natural light of the created mind for the Uncreated, the Divine. In such states of aberration the human mind forges mystical theories which, however, lead not to genuine eternity but to that attainable by man as a created being.

Supernatural communion with God is quite a different matter. God is not the world of pure abstract ideas. He is Living. He is most concrete Personal Being. This feature of the Personal Absolute is the most important for many who find themselves halted by the insoluble contradictions between artificially-constructed hypothetical doctrines. Every dilemma is resolved by following Christ in toto—Christ, the God-man. This is the only way to arrive at true knowledge of genuine Being, when our enlightened mind is stilled in blissful awe contemplating the creation of gods identical with the Unoriginate Himself.

Elder Sophrony of Essex

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1 Response to “And there is no limit to the outpouring of the Father’s love: man becomes identical with God”

  1. This invokes (happily) distinctions that are reminiscent to me of those Maritain often used, such as between an intuition of being, philosophical contemplation, mysticism of the self & mystical contemplation.

    Also, two favorite quotes came to mind:

    It happens at certain moments that delight and enjoyment invade the whole body. And the fleshly tongue can say no more; to such degrees now have earthly objects become but dust and ashes. The initial delights, those of the heart, fill us while we are awake. The spirit burns at the hour of prayer, at the moment of reading, in the course of frequent meditations or long contemplations. But the final delights come to us differently, often during the night, in the following way: when we are between sleep and wakefulness, when we are asleep without being asleep and awake without being really awake. These delights invade a person and the whole body throbs. It is clear then that this is nothing other than the kingdom of heaven.
    ~ Isaac of Nineveh

    And so, many contemplatives never become great saints, never enter into close friendship with God, never find a deep participation in His immense joys, because they cling to the miserable little consolations that are given to beginners in the contemplative way. ~ Thomas Merton

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