The Goodness of Being

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The primary good is existence itself, for if someone does not exist, how can he make use of good things of any sort? And, whereas we all simply somehow exist, God is “the One Who Is,” that is, He is the One Who enjoys utter fullness of existence, the One Who is Being itself. God’s being has within itself its own cause or foundation. It is absolutely whole, individsible and unchangeable; it possesses everything simultaneously in a single perfect, all-encompassing unity. All of God’s attributes interprenetrate one another. Thus, for example, one cannot say that in God love is not wise, nor that wisdom is not permeated with love; nor can one say that His freedom is powerless, or His power without freedom, etc. God’s life is not a death-like rest but a complex and yet unified, all-powerful act of being whereby He realizes everything that we, even through thousands of our own efforts, cannot attain. Thus, God is above time and space; He is eternal and simple.

The above is a short paragraph from the beloved Serge Verhovskoy’s The Light of the World. Rich in content yet simple in statement, it points us to the reason that Being is the question. We may say these things of God, but our own experience of being is full of contradiction and even pain. It is clear that our existence is in some sense flawed. Thus God united Himself with us in the fullness our being and healed us at the very core of who we are. But it is this core that often remains unaddressed and unattended in our religious life. We all too often are satisfied with having mastered certain external matters of the Orthodox life and just get by. We fail to press the very pain and problem of our being. We take for granted that failings and emptiness in certain areas of our life are simply givens and must be endured.

But God is the Fullness of Being and invites us to share in that fullness. Thus not only is Orthodoxy really “all about being,” it is about our being healed and sharing more fully in all that it means to exist. Existence should not be a burden for us, but a daily joy, a gift. By the same token, our existence should be a daily joy and gift for those around us, unless they have set themselves as enemies of all that is good.

To be able to say, “It is good to be here,” (St. Peter said such a thing on the Mount of Transfiguration), is a confession of the truth. It is indeed good to be here, regardless of the problems that have beset our existence.

I have seen such joy in the face of children on more than one occasion. In the remembrance of my own children’s childhoods, I recall such moments that I was graced with witnessing as among the greatest joys of my life. May God multiply such moments for them in their adult lives!

It is good to be here. It is good to be. For God is good.

3 Responses to “The Goodness of Being”

  1. fatherstephen Says:

    The photo is from a small roadside park in East Tennesee where my wife and I enjoyed an afternoon. Too many such places surround most of us and we fail to see them – our existence is squeezed into something less than fullness.

  2. ioannisfreeman Says:

    More on Olivier Clement and Christos Yannaras in reference to Father Stephen’s “The Goodness of Being” and recent references in other topical strings:

    Good Christian sisters and brothers,

    Recent references to Olivier Clement and Christos Yannaras led me to reflect on Father Stephen’s topic “The Goodness of Being.” In particular, I reflect upon Father Stephen’s words “Thus God united Himself with us in the fullness our being and healed us at the very core of who we are.”

    The “fullness of being” draws me deeper into meditation. Such fullness of being calls for desire from humankind–a response from human beings, such desire as Yannaras calls “erotic.” This desire builds over time and with repeated prayer, ascesis, frequent Confession and Holy Communion. Yannaras’ discussion appears in several places, such as Orhodoxy East and West (e.g. pp. 255-256; trans. Chamberas and Russell, 2006, Orthodox Press, Brookline, MA.).

    Turning next to Olivier Clement on the topic of the goodness of being, I noticed God’s goodness as an invitation to human beings to repent of sins and turn to God in assurance of reconciliation promised by Christ in the Holy Gospels, and as represented in two AV clips by Olivier Clement:

    Two French-language interviews of Olivier Clement from St. Sergius Institute in Paris*** appear at the following URL: http://www.dieu-parmi-nous.com/r.videos.<&gt;. The impact of these interviews affects how caring-type professionals render therapeutic interventions, and, therefore, ought to be considered by way of illuminating Father Stephen’s comment: “Thus God united Himself with us in the fullness our being and healed us at the very core of who we are.”

    ***The St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, founded in 1925, is an establishment of private higher education, legalized as such in France and functioning under the aegis of the Academy of Paris. It is under the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe, and in communion with the EP. The mission of the St. Sergius Institute is to form educated priests and laypeople, intending to serve actively the Orthodox Church and representing it in the ecumenical dialogue, as well as in the religious and cultural life of their own country.

    In addition, there are a handful of translations from Clement’s texts that are available, which further elaborate on the theme of the goodness of being:

    (1) Taize: A Meaning to Life by Olivier Clement (Paperback – Jul 1997)

    for more information about Taize, here is the URL: http://www.taize.fr/en

    2.
    On Human Being: A SPIRITUAL ANTHROPOLOGY (Theology and Faith) by Olivier Clement and George Maloney (Paperback – Sep 1, 2000)

    3.
    Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Clement and Theodore Berkeley (Paperback – Feb 1993)

    4.
    Three Prayers: The Lord’s Prayer, O Heavenly King, the Prayer of Saint by Olivier Clement (Paperback – Jan 2000)

    5.
    Living God: A Catechism for the Christian Faith by M. Olivier Clement and Olga Dunlap (Paperback – Oct 1989)
    Buy new: $14.95

    6.
    Taizé : Un sens à la vie by Olivier Clément (Paperback – Feb 13, 1997)

    7.
    Orient-Occident: Deux passeurs, Vladimir Lossky et Paul Evdokimov (Perspective orthodoxe) by Olivier Clement (Unknown Binding – 1985)

    8.
    Love at High Risk, The many faces of AIDS by Clement Olivier, Pierre Dionne, Eileen McKeever, and Daniel McBain (Paperback)

    9.
    Conservations With Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I by Olivier Clement and Paul Meyendorff (Paperback – Oct 1997)
    10.
    Dialogues Avec Le Patriarche Athenagoras by Olivier Clement (Hardcover – 1969)

    11.
    L’esprit de Soljenitsyne (Collection Le Monde ouvert) by Olivier Clement (Unknown Binding – 1974)

    12.
    Taize. Einen Sinn fürs Leben finden. by Olivier Clement (Paperback – Jan 1, 1999)

    Finally, such desire for the goodness of being is evident in the Holy Gospel reading from today’s Holy Gospel reading: “As the Father knows Me, so I know the Father (v.15). Being precedes knowledge, but knowledge of personal Being, when revealed to us in Christ, is knowable. These words comfort and reassure in the Name of +Christ.

  3. william Says:

    Thank you, Ioannis, for all this information.

    The link to the Clement video didn’t work for me, and I haven’t had time to fish around the main site (which looks quite interesting).

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