I have written recently that the true central question of our relationship with God goes to the very fact of our existence, that “in Him we live and move and have our being.” I have also written some short comments on statements of the Elder Sophrony reminding us that all we do, we do in the presence of God. Both of these bring us to the question of true or authentic existence. I do not wish to look at something around me (or someone) and say “that does not exist.” Such a statement would be both untrue and silly.
But I do want to be able to look at myself (you’re invited into this as well) and distinguish between mere existence and authentic existence. The purpose for which we were and are created is not mere existence. I can think of many days in my life of mere existence and not one of them has had much to recommend it (though I’m grateful to begin even there). But to exist authentically, is to exist not just before and in the presence of God, but consciously present to Him as the very center of my being – as the very center of all that is.
I have become increasingly aware of this during Church services lately. I suppose I could have become aware of it anywhere, and I’m sure that I should be aware of it everywhere. But lately, it has been in the services of the Church that this awareness has opened to me (or me to it). The awareness is simply that at the heart of every word, every action, every sound and movement, God is there. And more than that – but that God is in us, in me, in the midst of all that us. It in no way distracts from words or actions but gives them their proper meaning.
It has brought to my mind the understanding that regardless of what we do at any time, within our heart our attention should be toward God. My directions to those who come to the Church inquiring about the Orthodox faith is not to be distracted by anything, but in all things to seek God. The Orthodox Church exists for no other reason than to unite man to God in Christ. Indeed, the Church is nothing other than the union of God and man in Christ.
This is authentic and true existence – that for which we were and are created: Christ.